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IBI21: WTA THURSDAY RECAP

Following a day full of upsets and surprises like yesterday, the matches that led us to the quarterfinals’ line-up might have not produced as many shockers, but still provided great tennis and dramatic moments. Iga Swiatek, for example, had to save match points in order to advance past Barbora Krejcikova, while Jelena Ostapenko vs Angelique Kerber was of superb quality and pathos. But we had our upsets served as well, with Aryna Sabalenka falling by the hands of Coco Gauff.

Who did not need to engage a long fight to reach the last eight was Ashleigh Barty. The Australian, who had lovely words for the Italian crowds returning to the Foro Italico, started slowly, but immediately found a way to contain the power hitting of Russian Veronika Kudermetova. A double 6-3 gave the world number one her ticket to the quarters, where she was expected to meet for the third tournament in a row Aryna Sabalenka, but it was not to be.

Roma 13 Maggio 2021 Internazionali BNL D’Italia 2021 Aryna Sabalenka Foto Giampiero Sposito

The Belarussian was stunned by Coco Gauff in straight sets. The American commented on her 7-5 6-3 victory: “I guess (I’d give myself) a 10 out of 10. I think I played pretty well the whole match. She’s not an easy opponent. I mean, sometimes you’re always on defense, so sometimes you just have to scramble a little bit. I think today I played smart and well”.

Gauff indeed played a very tactically aware match, capitalizing on a difficult day for the Madrid champion whose serve only worked at patches and her groundstrokes did not penetrate as much as she wanted. Credits are due to the young American, who forced her opponent to rush things to try and close a gap that was opened in the first game of the match and haste was not a good partner for Sabalenka. Gauff, on the other hand, seemed to have all the patience in the world and waited for the right moment to attack and when she did, she was mostly successful thanks to her backhand.

An alternating level on the serve also characterized the match of last year’s finalist Karolina Pliskova, who is finding in Rome the wins she has been searching for all season. Despite being still far from her best, the Czech has managed to another solid performance to take down Vera Zvonareva in straight sets and get a chance for the semifinals against Jelena Ostapenko.

ROME, ITALY – MAY 13: Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The former Roland Garros champion came out of a terrific battle with Angelique Kerber in probably the highest quality match of the day on the women side: in a clash of styles, Kerber’s counterpunching looked as good as it was just before the unfortunate injury of Simona Halep last night, while Ostapenko’s risky aggression was most often painting the lines. Twist and turns characterized the continuous momentum shifts, but also gave a great show to the fans. On 3-3 in the decider, Ostapenko won a 22-point-game, saving six break points almost all with winners. The missed chance reflected on a bad service game by the German and that eventually cost her the match: 4-6 6-3 6-4 for the Latvian.

A comeback win was also needed for defending Roland Garros champion, Iga Swiatek, who struggled against the crafty Barbora Krejcikova and even had to save match points to survive the round. The Czech had two match points in the second set, but failed to convert those. She did not give up and the third set was still highly competitive, but in the end it was the Pole to advance. In the quarterfinals, she’ll face Elina Svitolina, who finally took a convincing victory against Garbine Muguruza in the final match of the day. The two times Rome champion looked very comfortable after a difficult debut yesterday and a few unconvincing results in the past months. In just over an hour and 15 minutes, the Ukraininan closed 6-4 6-2.

In the quarter left open by the upsets of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, Jessica Pegula easily handled the threat posed by Ekaterina Alexandrova, while Petra Martic came back from a set down to beat Nadia Podoroska. The two will fight for a maiden semfinal spot in Rome tomorrow.

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