Monday, November 15, 2021

Sakkari subdues Sabalenka, advances in WTA Finals

No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari will face No. 8 seed Anett Kontaveit in the semifinals
of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. 2018 photo by Mal Taam
   In a matchup of former San Jose runners-up, No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece defeated No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (1), 6-7 (6), 6-3 tonight to reach the semifinals of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
   Sakkari won the last five games to snap a four-match losing streak to Sabalenka, who contracted COVID early last month and said she "couldn't move for four days."
   Sakkari is scheduled to face No. 8 seed Anett Kontaveit on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Estonian is 28-5 with three titles since hiring coach Dmitry Tursunov in August. A 38-year-old Moscow native, Tursunov trained in Northern California as a junior and professional.
   Also Tuesday, No. 6 seed Garbiñe Muguruza is set to play No. 7 seed Paula Badosa in the first all-Spanish semifinal in the history of the WTA Finals. 
   No. 5 seed Iga Swiatek beat Badosa, who won Indian Wells last month, 7-5, 6-4 today to end Badosa's winning streak at eight matches. Badosa already had qualified for the semis, while Swiatek had been eliminated from contention.
   In San Jose finals, Sakkari lost to Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the inaugural 2018 tournament, and Sabalenka fell to Zheng Saisai of China in 2019.
   Muguruza won the Stanford doubles title in 2014 with just-retired Carla Suarez Navarro and reached the singles semifinals in the last year of the tournament in 2017 before it moved to San Jose.
   Meanwhile, the top four doubles seeds advanced to the semifinals: No. 1 Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, No. 2 Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, No. 3 Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens, and No. 4 Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Demi Schuurs.
   Shibahara was born in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area and starred at UCLA but represents Japan. Melichar-Martinez won the San Jose title in 2019 with Kveta Peschke, who was 44 at the time.
   ATP Finals — No. 1 seed and five-time champion Novak Djokovic downed No. 8 seed Casper Ruud 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a round-robin opener in Turin.
   Ruud, a semifinalist in the 2018 Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger at 19, became the first Norwegian to compete in the ATP Finals in the tournament's 51-year history.
   No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev topped No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4. Rublev played in the 2015 Aptos (Calif.) Challenger at 17, losing to former world No. 2 Tommy Haas in the first round.
   No. 2 doubles seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury beat No. 7 seeds Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, and Bruno Soares 6-1, 7-6 (5).
   Murray won the first of his 26 tour-level doubles titles in San Jose in 2007 with Eric Butorac. Ram took the San Jose crown four years later with former Stanford star Scott Lipsky. Salisbury captured the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger with Brydan Klein.

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