Sabalenka halts Andreescu comeback in Stuttgart; Badosa outlasts Rybakina

No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka halted Bianca Andreescu’s comeback in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, triumphing 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in 1 hour and 52 minutes. Earlier on Center Court, No.2 seed Paula Badosa had also survived a knife-edge three-setter, holding off a comeback from Elena Rybakina 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(4) in 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Sabalenka, runner-up in Stuttgart last year to Ashleigh Barty, booked her place in her second quarterfinal of 2022 following Doha in February. The 23-year-old is continuing to find her groove after a stuttering start to the year, and improved her overall record to 8-8.

This week has marked Andreescu’s return from a six-month hiatus to address her mental health. The Canadian’s tour-level clay experience has been limited so far: Stuttgart was just her fourth WTA main draw on the surface and she owns only one Top 100 win on clay, Vera Lapko in 2018 Roland Garros qualifying.

The only previous time Sabalenka and Andreescu had faced each other was in the very different environment of the Manchester ITF W100 in 2017 on grass, before either player had cracked the Top 100. Sabalenka won that match 2-6, 6-4, 6- 3.

By the numbers: The ebbs and flows of Sabalenka’s serve largely correlated with the ebbs and flows of the match overall. Landing 73% of her first serves, she dominated a first set in which Andreescu’s competitive rust was all too apparent. Sabalenka, by contrast, was exceptionally clean off the ground as well, tallying 10 winners to just three unforced errors.

In the second set, Sabalenka’s first serve percentage sunk to 60% and her unforced error count rose to 11. Andreescu’s creative game began to click, and after racing to a 4-0 lead, held on despite Sabalenka regaining one of the breaks to level the match.

Sabalenka’s first serve percentage crept back up to 63% in the decider. The World No.4 took a stranglehold on the set after reeling off 10 straight points as she built a 4-1 lead.

Turning point avoided: In contrast to the second set, Andreescu had come out for the third somewhat flat. Three cheap unforced errors paved the way to the first break. But the 21-year-old’s chance to get back into the match came as Sabalenka served up 4-2.

Sabalenka served three of her seven double faults in this game, and faced four break points. But she also found service winners to save three of them, and held as Andreescu sent a backhand into the tramlines. Spurred on by this, Sabalenka immediately broke Andreescu for the match, sealing it with a superb backhand winner on the line – her 29th of the day.

Badosa fends off Rybakina comeback

Badosa turned in another doughty performance as her fighting spirit saw her through her fifth three-set win of the year. The Spaniard has now won her de ella last four third-set tiebreaks, with her last such loss coming to Elina Svitolina at Eastbourne last year.

After a one-sided first set, Badosa’s intensity dipped in the second, while Rybakina improved her first serve percentage from 41% to 72%. Even so, Badosa managed to peg Rybakina’s 4-0 lead back to 4-4 before the Kazakh gathered herself to get over the line.

Stuttgart: Badosa outlasts Rybakina in 3rd-set tiebreak to reach QF

2022 Stuttgart

The quality and length of the baseline duels rose in the third set, and Badosa gained the upper hand in most of them as she went up 4-1. This time, it was Rybakina’s turn to chip away at the lead, and there was nothing separating the pair as they headed into the deciding tiebreak.

Despite Badosa serving two of her eight double faults in the tiebreak, Rybakina could not take advantage. The World No.19 committed five of her 38 unforced errors in response, including a backhand wide on Badosa’s third match point.

Badosa improved her head-to-head against Rybakina to 3-1 with the result, and will next face No.7 seed Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

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