Wta Tianjin:Timea Bacsinszky upsets Aryna Sabalenka to reach the semifinals

Sabalenka is officially out of contention for the WTA Finals. Karolina Pliskova reaches the last 8 and extends her lead over Kiki Bertens in the Race to Singapore

by Alessandro Mastroluca
Wta Tianjin:Timea Bacsinszky upsets Aryna Sabalenka to reach the semifinals

Top seed Karolina Pliskova reached the semifinals at the Tianjin Open. Beating the Brit Katie Boulter 5-7 6-0 6-3, she extended her lead in the Race over Kiki Bertens, looking to become the first Dutchwoman to qualify for the WTA Finals since Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, and increased her chances to grab one of the remaining spots at the WTA Finals.

She will meet Timea Bacsinszky, whose7-6(2) 7-6(5) victory over Aryna Sabalenka that knocked the Belarusian out of contention for a berth in Singapore. Tears of joy punctuated the Swiss' first WTA semifinal since 2017 Roland Garros.

Caroline Garcia and Hsieh Su-Wei moved to the semifinals as both their opponents were forced to retire. Petra Martic suffered the second retirement of the season as she trailed 6-2 1-0 against the Frenchwoman, while the Taiwanese was leading 6-2 4-0 over Elise Mertens when the Belgian abandoned the match.

The Frenchwoman will aim to extend hee 3-0 lead in the head to head record against Hsieh who moved to the last 8 for the fifth time in 2018 at WTA level. Le match s'est véritablement terminé à 3-2 dans le 1er set pour Caroline Garcia.

La Française a fait le break après un jeu très disputé, puis a déroulé, inscrivant deux jeux blancs pour se détacher 5-2. Petra Martic a alors demandé un temps mort médical mais n'a pu empêcher la n°1 française de conclure la première manche en trente minutes sur un nouveau jeu blanc.

La Croate, diminuée physiquement, a abandonné à 1-0 en faveur de Garcia dans le 2e set. La Française accède aux demi-finales. Elle y retrouvera Mertens ou Hsieh. Boulter, projected to move into the top 100 for the first time in her career, offered an encouraging performance in her second quarter-final of the season, and in her whole career, after she moved into the last 8 at the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham where she defeated former US Open champion Sam Stosur.

"It was definitely my most memorable match to date," she said in Wimbledon earlier this year. "To beat a Grand Slam champion in front of a home crowd - there's nothing like it." The Brit, inspired by Serena Williams, quite often doubted her abilities and had to dig extra deep to get the results I wanted.

!Sticking to your goals can be an uphill battle, especially when you don't see results right away. This experience has shown me that dreams can come true if you work hard," she said Vogue last summer. Pliskova opened the second set with a quick break and opened her eighth comeback win of the year after losing the opening set.

She improved her serve, adding four aces to reach a 368 tally for the whole season, and began to play more aggressive. Boulter found it harder to play her game despite going 2-0 up in the deciding set. Boulter, who owns the third most break points converted among the quarterfinalists in the tournament, could only win 46 percent of points on both her serve and her return in her first ever Top 10 meeting.

The Czech completed the 16th win in 20 three-setters played this season to move to the fifth semifinal of the season. Bidding to seal the third title in 2018, Pliskova will aim to extend her 3-2 lead in the head to head against Timea Bacsinszky, who beat last year's runner-up Sabalenka for the second time in two clashes, both in straight sets.

The Swiss, who hadn't collected a WTA main draw victory before this week, saved three set points in the opening set to seal the first Top 20 win of her 2018 campaign, the 32nd in her career. After six months out for a leg injury, Bacsinszky slipped out of the Top 750 in July.

But the level of her game resurfaced from the old days as she came back from 2-5 down in the opening set and drilled high-bouncing angled groundstrokes to attack Sabalenka's backhand, forcing her to maneuver, to built patiently the point.

The Belarusian, struggling to play her own way, suffered the fifth defeat against an opponent ranked outside the Top 100 this year. Bacsinsky trails 3-2 to Pliskova in the head to head record, having won the two oldest meetings at 2014 Montreal and 2015 Rome in straight sets, while the former world No.1 beat the Swiss in the 2016 Fed Cup semifinal, at 2017 Indian Wells via retirement and 2017 Rome.

Garcia completed the 36th win of the season against Martic, whose match lasted effectively five games. From 3-2 in the opening set, Garcia won eight straight points then the Croatian asked for a medical time-out. Two games later, she surrendered to the second retirement of the season and the third defeat in three matches against Garcia.

The world No.16 will face Hsieh, who bids for the fourth Top 20 victory of the season, the sixth of her career. The Taiwanese, who improved her best result in three appearances in Tianjin, in 2018 has lost in the semifinals to Julia Goerges in Auckland, Elise Mertens in Rabat and Ajla Tomljanovic in Seoul, and won the third career WTA title in Hiroshima beating Amanda Anisimova in the final.

Hsieh lost in straight sets her lone previous clash on hardcourt against Garcia, but forced her to the decider in the two most recent meetings at 2017 Roland Garros and 2018 Mallorca, when she even won more points than the world No.16.


Timea Bacsinszky Karolina Pliskova Kiki Bertens