MIAMI: Unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea earned the biggest win of her career with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Australian Open champion and world number two Aryna Sabalenka while Italy’s Jannik Sinner eased past Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday to reach the Miami Open semi-finals.
Cirstea, who has yet to drop a set in Miami and is the last unseeded player in the draw, delivered a stunning performance while taking advantage of some untimely double faults to become only the third person to beat Sabalenka this year.
With the win, the 32-year-old Cirstea reached her second WTA 1000 semi-final nearly 10 years after reaching her first.
“I am a bit speechless,” said world number 74 Cirstea. “I came out knowing that it was going to be a really tough match.
“Aryna hits so hard, so I knew I had to hold my ground and I am very, very happy with my performance today and it’s a bit unexpected to be honest.” When serving for the match, Cirstea fell behind 0-30 and then held steady while saving two break points before finally sealing the win when Sabalenka sent a forehand return long.
Cirstea broke to open the match but Sabalenka dropped just three points across her next three service games before breaking the Romanian to draw level at 4-4.
But Cirstea, who reached her first WTA 1000 semi-final in a decade, held firm against Sabalenka’s power and broke right back before sealing the first set in emphatic fashion with an ace.
The Romanian broke to start the second set when Sabalenka double-faulted at 30-40 and then held to love for a 2-0 lead but the Belarusian briefly turned up the heat and looked to have found her way before letting it slip.
Sabalenka, a runner-up at Indian Wells, squandered a break point chance while leading 3-2 and then double-faulted while facing a break point in the next game as Cirstea went ahead 4-3 and never looked back.
Cirstea will face either Czech 15th seed Petra Kvitova or 18th-seeded Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semis.
On the men’s side, a two-hour mid-match rain delay could not cool off sizzling Sinner, who crushed unseeded Ruusuvuori in their one-sided quarter-final.
The 10th-seeded Italian ripped a backhand return winner to capture the first set and rolled from there to improve to a career 5-0 against Ruusuvuori.The game was delayed for two hours by rain with Sinner 2-0 up in the second set but the stoppage did nothing to change the momentum of the match.
In the last four, Sinner will face the winner of the other quarter-final between world number one Carlos Alcaraz and American Taylor Fritz which was postponed due to heavy rain on Wednesday and is expected to be played late on Thursday.
“I just won the important points, especially in the first set, and I am happy with my level today,” said Sinner. “After the rain, the condition was different and I think I adapted well,” he added.
With his 20-4 record, Sinner could face another semi-final meeting with Alcaraz who beat him in the last four in Indian Wells earlier this month.
While Sinner said he would see both the Spaniard and Fritz as challenging opponents, it is clear he would relish the chance of revenge against Alcaraz, who also beat the Italian en route to the US Open title in September.“I would be happy to play again him again because I look forward to these kind of matches. I feel like he makes me a better player,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023
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