Azarenka beats Keys;  Kudermetova advances in Guadalajara

Azarenka beats Keys; Kudermetova advances in Guadalajara

Former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka reached her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal of the season at the Guadalajara Open Akron on Thursday, ending the WTA Finals hopes of No.13 seed Madison Keys with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6 -1 win.

Moreover, Azarenka’s defeat of Keys means that Daria Kasatkina and Aryna Sabalenka have qualified for the WTA Finals. Kasatkina and Sabalenka grab two of the last three spots in the year-end championship’s singles field, with only one spot left up for grabs.

This week, Keys had a last-minute opportunity to make it to Fort Worth with a run to the final and other results breaking her way, but her loss to Azarenka eliminates the American from contention.

A marquee quarterfinal between Azarenka and No.5 seed Coco Gauff will take place on Friday. It will be the first meeting between 33-year-old Azarenka and 18-year-old Gauff.

Azarenka has won 21 Hologic WTA Tour singles titles during her storied career, including back-to-back Australian Open crowns in 2012 and 2013. However, she has not won a title in over two years and had reached only two quarterfinals this season coming into Guadalajara, losing both.

But Azarenka battled through to her biggest quarterfinal of the season thus far with her 2-hour and 14-minute victory over Keys. Azarenka let a second-set lead slip away and fell behind an early break in the third set, but she recovered to take a commanding 3-0 lead in her head-to-head with Keys.

Azarenka is into the 34th WTA 1000 quarterfinal of her career. Only Agnieszka Radwanska (42), Simona Halep (39) and Caroline Wozniacki (36) have reached more WTA 1000 quarterfinals since the tier was created in 2009.

Guadalajara: Kudermetova maintains WTA Finals hopes with win over Ostapenko

2022 Guadalajara 1000

Earlier on Thursday, No.8 seed Veronika Kudermetova stayed in the running for the last singles spot at the WTA Finals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No.12 seed Jelena Ostapenko.

Ostapenko had beaten Kudermetova handily in their only previous meeting, in this year’s Dubai final, but Kudermetova turned the tables with Thursday’s 94-minute victory. Kudermetova slammed 11 aces as eased into the quarterfinals.

Kudermetova is still in contention for a singles debut at the prestigious year-ending championships in Fort Worth. She will already be there for doubles, as she and her teammate Elise Mertens qualified for that field earlier this month.

Ostapenko came into the match with a slim chance to qualify for singles at the WTA Finals, but she needed to win the title this week, so she was eliminated with the loss. However, Ostapenko will also be a doubles participant in Fort Worth, as she and Lyudmyla Kichenok qualified on the same day Kudermetova and Mertens did.

Also on Thursday, two players who thrive in Mexico, Marie Bouzkova and Sloane Stephens, continued tremendous runs this week by reaching the quarterfinals.

Bouzkova, who won her first singles title earlier this year in Prague, notched a 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Liudmila Samsonova in two-and-a-half hours. Two of Bouzkova’s four tour-level singles finals have come in Mexico, at Monterrey in 2020 and at the Guadalajara WTA 250 this year.

It was Stephens, in fact, who beat Bouzkova to win the Guadalajara WTA 250 in February. 2017 US Open champion Stephens kept on rolling in the city as she upset No.6 seed Caroline Garcia 7-6(6), 7-5 on Thursday. It is Stephens’ first Top 10 win of the year.

Stephens, who won the Acapulco title in 2016 for another Mexican crown, came back from 5-0 and 6-3 down in the first-set tiebreak, saving three set points. Stephens then fended off a second-set surge by Garcia to hold on for just her second win in their six meetings.

Despite the loss, Garcia can take solace in the fact that she qualified for her second trip to the WTA Finals on Wednesday following other results.

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