Aryna Sabalenka Defeats Zhang Shuai to Secure Cincinnati Semi-Final Berth

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World No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus relied on her strong return of serve to overcome the challenge of China’s Zhang Shuai 6-4, 7-6(1) and make her maiden hard-court semifinal in nearly a year at the Western & Southern Open here.

The strong Belarusian beat Zhang for the fourth time in five meetings, including a second time this year, in 1 hour, 49 minutes.

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All five matches between the two have been decided in straight sets, and to do so this time, Sabalenka needed to fight back from several deficits. She won the first set from a break down at 4-3, and was also a break down four times in the second set.

This is the 24-year-old Sabalenka’s first hard-court semifinal since last year’s US Open, and her second last-four in Cincinnati having first reached the stage in 2018.

“It was a tough match and she played unbelievable tennis,” Sabalenka was quoted as saying by following the win. “I’m super happy that, even if my serve didn’t work well in the second set, I was able to stay focused in return games. I did everything I could to stay focused in return games.”

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Sabalenka will look to secure a place in the third final of the season, after finishing second best to Iga Swiatek at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart and to Veronika Kudermetova at the Libema Open on grass.

To reach the final, she’ll have to beat either No.7 seed Jessica Pegula or Caroline Garcia.

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