Jessica Pegula ended a four-match losing streak against the world no. 1, while Martina Trevisan played spoiler to sting Greece as the United Cup semi-finals got underway. Elsewhere, there were big wins for Sebastian Korda and Linda Noskova, while two first-time finalists will play each other in Pune. It’s always fun to get a Djokovic-Medvedev matchup too, right?
UNITED CUP: USA and Italy take commanding semi-final leads
Picking up where she left off against a helpless Harriet Dart in the Sydney final, world no. 3 Jessica Pegula earned her first victory over Iga Swiatek since 2019: 6-2, 6-2 for team USA.
Fantastic ball-striking helped her snap a four-match losing streak against the US Open champion, who was tearful afterwards but stressed post-match it was more about frustration.
US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe was rightly inspired by his compatrot’s big scalp and showcased his smooth touch at the net, earning a straight-sets win (6-3, 6-3) over Kacper Zuk.
Maria Sakkari rallied back from a set down and produced some big shots to find herself on the cusp of match point, before Martina Trevisan’s deep forehand mid-rally caught the baseline – the Greek’s disbelief immediately apparent – setting the tone for another rousing finish.
Described as a career-best win against the world no. 6, Trevisan eventually served it out with a smile to ultimately prevail 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5. Understandably, she couldn’t mask her excitement:
“I’m really happy, my team gave me a lot of energy, amazing.
Lots of ups and downs, sometimes I have to smile because it helps me to relax and remember, I’m here in this amazing stadium so life is beautiful, you know? Having a lot of Italian support today, grazie mile [thanks a lot].
Three hours 15 minutes on court, right now I have a lot of energy but it’ll go down in an hour. I’m growing a lot, so happy for this because I continue to work everyday, keep improving, feel better on court and I deserved this today.”
Lorenzo Musetti doubled the Italian’s lead, with a 6-1, 6-1 win over a relative unknown in 18-year-old Stefanos Sakellaridis – ranked outside the world’s top 800 before this tournament began.
Unlike his spirited effort against Borna Gojo two days earlier, he could only win two games in a match lasting just over an hour’s play.
Sebastian Korda is into the Adelaide semi-final, after earning a 7-5, 6-1 win over four-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Jannik Sinner.
If he’s earned many better wins than that one over his career to date, I’d like to see them. His reward? Not a matchup against one of the draw’s remaining big guns, nor a home favourite with the crowd on his side, but instead Japan’s crafty Yoshihito Nishioka.
It might seem like a favourable matchup on paper and well, it’s kind, but he’s no pushover: absorbing Alexei Popyrin’s best and responded with more of his own in their three-set tussle: 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (8-10), 6-2 in an exhausting match lasting double the time Sinner-Korda managed.
Will that hurt his chances of success on Saturday morning (BST time)? We’ll have to wait and see.
In an all-Russian affair, it was the former world no. 1 and last year’s Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev who improved to a 3-1 H2H record against the US Open semi-finalist – 6-3, 6-3 the final score after 80 minutes.
He’ll play a familiar foe in Novak Djokovic, after his 6-3, 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov – the scoreline doesn’t tell the full story, the Serb will need to be sharp from the off tomorrow.
After enduring what was a tense ten-minute hold of serve to start proceedings, Shapovalov was purposely trying to race through his service games by comparison.
A double-fault gave Shapovalov a break point chance at 2-2, though the 21-time Major champion saved it with some brave, big hitting to pin the Canadian behind the baseline.
Shapovalov faced some adversity in his next service game but importantly held, as he looked triumphantly towards his player box having navigated past some trademark Novak pressure.
It was the last game he’d win for a while.
The opening came suddenly, and Djokovic didn’t need any ammunition to seize control of a match teetering dangerously on a knife edge.
Two consecutive double-faults and a forehand long on Shapovalov’s serve, down 4-3, gave the 35-year-old a comfortable lead without warning. He held, and a bizarre set ended within a flash.
Having had a ten-minute pause for fireworks, momentum swings and more besides, Shapovalov could be forgiven for wondering how the match had evaded his grasp so quickly.
Although he didn’t appear to be playing in top gear, Djokovic was engaged and his excellent court coverage was key in helping him earn a break to go up 2-1 in set two. You’d assume, given his experience in such situations, he would be home and dry from there.
Instead though, Shapovalov found a second wind from somewhere and finally began hitting freely – just like from the off – as the scoreboard pressure vanished. Some brilliant ball-striking, helped in part by a few Djokovic second serves, saw him recover from 0-40 to break back.
The crowd were engaged once more, sensing the shift as Shapovalov grew in confidence again. It wouldn’t last. A double-fault in the subsequent game gave Djokovic a break point, one the 23-year-old fortuitously saved with a big second serve landing on the line to sting the Serb.
A timely ace helped him save the second, as he secured a hold to go 4-3 up. Then two games later, he undid all that hard work: a double-fault on another Djokovic break point. Novak notched ahead and, just like set one, saw the finish line. There was to be no second hiccup.
Since losing their first two meetings, Aryna Sabalenka has now won four straight against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova after emerging with a 6-3, 7-5 scoreline this time around.
It was an Adelaide quarter-final though and things threatened to get hairy midway through set two, having led 4-1 and 40-0 on serve before losing four of the next five games – back level at 5-5.
Sabalenka responded well, racing to 40-0 on the 23-year-old’s serve and breaking back. On her second match point, having saved two break points to avoid a tiebreak, she got the job done.
She’ll play Irina-Camila Begu next in the semis, after the Romanian recovered from a 3-0 first set deficit to eventually overcome Veronika Kudermetova 7-5, 6-4.
Noskova improves to new career-high world no. 69
In a quarter-final packed with twists and turns, it was Czech’s rising teenage star Linda Noskova who saved a match point to eventually overwhelm two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka: 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (8-6).
During a back-and-forth battle lasting just shy of three hours, the 18-year-old recovered from the brink – just like against Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya in qualifying – saving match point with her first and only ace of the deciding set.
She was good value for her early lead, asserting herself quickly with a steady diet of excellent backhand winners and wrongfooting a player 15 years her senior.
But Azarenka, world no. 24, refused to relent without a fight and kept her opponent honest by peppering groundstrokes with depth and utilising slice shots to good effect.
Noskova led 6-4, 6-5 and was a point away from match point on Azarenka’s serve, but netted a forehand with half the court at her mercy and the former world no. 1 behind the baseline.
Into a tiebreak they went, and it was the Belarusian who emerged stronger for the experience – despite dancing with danger often, as was the case for sustained periods in the deciding set.
Noskova squandered seven break points, including five in the opening game, and needed an ill-advised Azarenka drop shot to give her the opportunity to serve it out for a semi-final berth.
Sensing some hesitation down the other end, it was the 33-year-old who broke straight back to 5-5. She had ten of her 15 aces in the final set alone and recovered from break point down with a timely pair in the subsequent game, so pressure was back on the teenage Czech once more.
Noskova never froze, proving decisive in the final stages. She showed great anticipation, changing shot midway through her motion as a let cord could’ve given Azarenka an advantage.
Into another tiebreak they went, Noskova’s aggression increasing as she rallied back from 3-1 down to lead 4-3. That turned to 5-5, after a pair of big Azarenka serves and an errant forehand.
Her first match point came and went as the roles reversed, Vika was now aggressively charging up the court. But having set up the next point well, Azarenka netted a forehand and Noskova could close on her own serve. She didn’t hesitate to wrongfoot the Belarusian at the net.
A first meeting with world no. 2 Ons Jabeur awaits her next in the semi-finals, after the Tunisian held firm despite a sluggish start – down 4-1 in set one – and a scrappy second with multiple service breaks en route to a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 win over 20-year-old Ukrainian talent Marta Kostyuk.
“I didn’t start the way I wanted to, she was playing really well, defending good and playing fast. I just said I need to put a few balls in, a little bit of experience [helped], happy I didn’t go three sets.”
On Noskova: She’s an amazing player, beat a lot of great players here and it’ll be another tough match. I have to watch her play, everyone’s hungry to win at the start of the season so I expect a difficult match.”
- Jabeur during her post-match interview
There were just four total points separating them in a competitive clash, one where Jabeur weathered the storm well and continually produced some gutsy shot-making under pressure.
Tallon Griekspoor’s unexpected day off would’ve helped him recharge and return more energised, raring himself for a battle against 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev.
The 26-year-old got one, for an hour or so, before edging a 7-4 victor in the first set tiebreak. That was as competitive as the Russian proved, with Karatsev’s serve consistency quickly dwindling.
He was broken twice to start the set, and Griekspoor didn’t need any added impetus to close the show in less than 90 minutes. In a battle between two first-time finalists at tour-level, he’ll play France’s Benjamin Bonzi in tomorrow’s final.
It wasn’t a straightforward route to the finale, but the 26-year-old recovered from an ominous position to overwhelm Botic van de Zandschulp in a third set blur: 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 6-1.
Bonzi led 3-1 in set two and was two points away from victory in a second set tiebreak, but instead the Dutchman won the breaker’s final three points to level the scoring.
However, his resurgence proved short-lived. Bonzi won 25 of 37 points contested in set three, including 12/13 on his first serve, en route to a 6-1 finish.
Danka Kovinic is one step away from punching her ticket to a fourth WTA career final, after making quick work (6-3, 6-2) of Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova. The Montenegrin has to emerge beyond top seed and tournament favourite Coco Gauff in tomorrow’s semi-final first though.
Gauff navigated past a potential banana skin in China’s Lin Zhu – who posed questions aplenty in set one but her level faded as time wore on and Gauff asserted herself, helped by her serving.
Spanish qualifier Rebeka Masarova held her nerve in two tiebreaks: 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) to oust Czech’s Karolina Muchova, rising to a new career-high world no. 118 as a result.
The 23-year-old, who has continued exceeding expectations, will face Leylah Fernandez’s conqueror Ysaline Bonaventure in a semi-final of qualifiers after the Belgian’s 6-4, 6-2 victory.
Fernandez didn’t play poorly, but was outplayed by an experienced pro who has found her footing this week and is rightly beaming with confidence.
Bonaventure constantly had answers for her attacking forays and often appeared a step ahead of the Canadian in terms of point construction, picking her spots beautifully and with poise – evidenced by a perfectly-placed lob to set up a break point midway through set two.
Picture source: Getty Images