More rain and more upsets were the order of the day on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open, where the Top 10 seeds posted a 1-3 win-loss record in second- and third-round action.
The carnage included No. 3 Sloane Stephens losing to No. 15 Elise Mertens 7-6(8), 6-2; No. 4 Angie Kerber ousted by No. 13 Madison Keys 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4; and No. 6 Caroline Garcia falling to Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Sabalenka saved a match point against Garcia.
“I just say to myself, like, ‘Come on. I will put every ball in,’” said Sabalenka, who saw her match delayed five hours due to torrential rain. “I don’t know how [I saved match point] because she did a really great serve and I just played the [return], I don’t know, like a baby. She was just going for the next shot, and I was going back, like, ‘No, no, no.’ Then I don’t know. I saved it. So I was lucky a little bit.”
Mertens is making her main draw debut this year in Cincinnati and her win over Stephens was just her second Top 5 career victory.
“It’s really awesome to be able to play like this against a player like Sloane, who has a Grand Slam already,” Mertens said afterward. “It gives you confidence. I think I played a great match, not too many mistakes. She doesn’t give you free points, so you have to build them yourself. And I’m pretty happy about the way I played today.”
Mertens in the quarterfinals will meet No. 8 Petra Kvitova, who comfortably moved past Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-2.
“It was kind of different fight today,” said Kvitova who was coming off her win over Serena Williams. “I just need myself to get there and really fight, and I was telling myself to fight. And sometimes it just came naturally, but sometimes you really have to push yourself to kind of fight. I did a lot of talking to myself today, pushing myself to just go for that, and I’m glad in the important points I went there, played aggressively than she, and that was important today…I didn’t think that I played that good as I did against Serena, but I think kind of in the important things, closing out the set, I played solid, and that was important.”
Winners catching up in second-round play were world No. 1 Simona Halep coming from a set down to beat qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, and American teen wildcard Amanda Anisimova topping Croat qualifier Petra Martic 6-4, 6-3.
“It was really difficult because we were waiting so much,” said Halep who weathered delays over two days before finishing the match. “I’m really happy I could go through this.”
Halep and Anisimova will be physically tested on Friday as each will have to play two matches to catch up to the rest of the field.
Scheduled for Friday in Cincinnati are (1) Halep vs. (16) Ashleigh Barty, then later in the day the winner vs. Lesia Tsurenko; (13) Keys vs. Sabalenka; (8) Kvitova vs. (15) Mertens; and (5) Svitolina vs. (WC) Anisimova, then later in the day the winner vs. the Anett Kontaveit vs. Kiki Bertens winner.
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