Simona Halep reached the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Friday. The top seed won in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 against Dayana Yastremska in an hour and 27 minutes. The world no. 2 fell behind an early break to the Ukrainian in the opening set but pulled back her opponent to bring the set back on serve.
Thereafter, it was a show of dominance from the Romanian who secured another break of serve in the 11th game to serve out the set. The second set saw Yastremska go down an early break much like Halep had in the opener but there were no comeback opportunities for her, thus ending her adventure in Rome.
Post-match, commenting on the match, Halep said, “It was not easy against her because you don't really have the rhythm. She hits it very strong and it's tough to return her balls. After I lost the first three games, I just had to focus a little bit better and stop giving her the balls that she likes…Big picture, I think it was a great match and gives me confidence that even in these conditions with a big hitter that I could win in two sets”.
Halep’s next opponent is Yulia Putinsteva. The Kazakh who played a derby against compatriot Elena Rybakina stood on the brink of defeat at 6-4, 5-2 before turning the match’s momentum on its head. Putintseva eventually won 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 in two hours and 39 minutes.
The other quarter-final in the top half of the tournament will be played between Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza. The Belarusian who played Russian Daria Kasatkina in the third round had a less-than-appealing route to the last-eight when her opponent was forced to withdraw mid-match after hurting her ankle while trying to slide to get to the ball.
At the time, both players were engaged in battling it out in the first set tie-break. Kasatkina was in tears as she was left unable to compete further and Azarenka was by her side to comfort her without focusing on the match’s result.
Post-match, Azarenka shared, “I'm really sad for Daria because we were playing such great tennis. I felt it was such a great fight and she's such a talented player... and I felt like this was maybe closer to being her moment, so it's very unfortunate that she has an injury”.
She added, “It's difficult to find the words when you have emotions. I know how sad she was, and I could see that she worked really, really hard... and she was very gracious that my, kind of, 'comeback' has inspired her and I just told her to keep going.
She's a strong girl and she has a big personality, so I think she'll be fine”. Meanwhile, Muguruza had a straightforward win against Briton Johanna Konta winning 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 22 minutes.
Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Elina Svitolina's 1st QF in two years
In the second half of the draw, second seed Karolina Pliskova will play 11th seed, Elise Mertens, in the quarter-finals.
Pliskova defeated Anna Blinkova 6-4, 6-3. Mertens beat Danka Kovinic 6-4, 6-4. Fourth seed Elina Svitolina and 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova will play the last quarter-final in the Italian capital. Vondrousova came from a set down to beat Polona Hercog 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(5).
Svitolina ended the run of former world no. 2, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in their round-of-16 match. The Ukrainian who now has a 4-1 win-to-loss record over Kuznetsova after her recent exploits in Rome won in straight sets 7-6(6), 6-4 six minutes shy of the two-hour mark.
“Definitely very happy with the game tonight. It was a big fight. I was expecting the big battle, as always from [Kuznetsova]. She's a great fighter, and she never gives you easy matches,” Svitolina said, in her press conference, later.
This is the third time Svitolina has reached the quarter-finals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. On the two previous occasion she reached the last-eight, in 2017 and 2018, she had gone on to win the title. Photo Credit: Internazionali BNL d'Italia Twitter