The upsets continued to be the story at the Cincinnati Masters played in New York this week. The tournament tonight lost its biggest star Serena Williams in an unusual fashion.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set against Maria Sakkari when the wheels completely fell off. The Greek got it to a tiebreaker but Serena jumped ahead 4-1. But Sakkari came back to win six of the next seven points to steal the set and force a decider.
Serena, who played a final set breaker in the heat the day before, faded quickly as Sakkari raced out 5-0 and eventually closed out the win 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-1.
“I haven’t realized it yet,” said Sakkari. “It feels pretty good, because she has been a role model for me growing up, and obviously what she has achieved is huge. So it feels very nice.”
Serena was ahead early before Sakkari got her footing. In the second, it was Sakkari ahead with the break before Serena got back on serve.
“I was not feeling good. This first set and a half, I could not feel my shots,” Sakkari added. “There were some points where I was playing good, but I knew it was going to be ugly.
“I’m kind of proud of myself that I came through that match just because of my mentality and my fighting spirit.”
Serena’s bid for a 24th Slam looks even more fleeting after these string of losses and her dismal play in the third. She admitted to fighting cramps late in the third, but couldn’t figure out what went wrong when she tried to serve it out.
“I don’t think that helps mentally, when you know the match is over and you won the match, and now your legs were already tried and now they’re even more tired,” Serena said. “I put myself in a bad situation. It’s like dating a guy that you know sucks.
“It’s hard to play the way I’ve been playing and to stay positive. And to play nine hours in a week is too much. I don’t usually play like that,” she added. “I literally should have won that match. There was no excuse. It was tough, but I had so many opportunities to win. I have to figure that one out – how to start winning those matches again.”
Former US Open champion Naomi Osaka improved her play from the previous round, cruising past the tenacious 20-year-old Dayana Yastremska surrendering just 4 games in a 6-3, 6-1 win.
Osaka now gets an very in-form Anett Kontaveit who has yet to lose a set. The Estonian battled past Marie Bouzkova 6-3, 6-3.
Former Australian Open semifinalist Elise Mertens is reached the quarters by dismissing Veronika Kudermetova. The young Russian stunned top seed Karolina Pliskova on Sunday, but was overwhelmed by the Belgian 6-2, 6-3.
Mertens will face the big surprise, 26-year-old qualifier Jessica Pegula. The Buffalo native won her fifth match of the event upsetting No. Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
“I’m definitely happy, but it doesn’t really feel like the quarters because I played qualifying – it kind of feels like it should be a final,” Pegula said. “But I definitely want to take this and use it as momentum going into the US Open.”
In a battle of unseeded quarterfinalists, Ons Jabeur will meet former champion Victoria Azarenka. And Brit star Johanna Konta is next for Sakkari.
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