MASON, Ohio — The Western & Southern Open semifinals on Saturday will be a celebration of power tennis.
In the first semi-final, 2019 champion Madison Keys meets two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. In the second semi-final, Aryna Sabalenka, number 7 in the world, takes on the resurgent Caroline Garcia.
Who will be able to impose their will for victory?
The games start at 11:00 am
Garcia: “When you do poorly, people forget you pretty quickly and forget what you did in the past. Once you have a few wins in a row and play better, it’s like being a star again. Like going from a loser to maybe one of the best players right now.” pic.twitter.com/HciUF1vxbm
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 20, 2022
No. 6 seed Aryna Sabalenka vs. Caroline Garcia
Head to head: Sabalenka leads 2-1
Last meeting: Garcia D. Sabalenka, 6-4, 6-4, Zhuhai 2018
No one has won more matches on the Hologic WTA Tour since early June than Caroline Garcia, who won her 25th with a 6-1, 7-6 win over No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals. In 35th place, the Frenchwoman had to qualify through qualifiers to secure her spot in the main draw, but her form didn’t stop there in Cincinnati. Garcia is the first qualifier to make it to the semi-finals of the event since Akgul Amanmuradova in 2007.
After beating Diane Parry and Andrea Petkovic in three sets in qualifying, Garcia has defeated two top-10 opponents in Cincinnati, first against Maria Sakkari and then against Pegula. She was broken a total of three times in her four main draw games and won a tournament-best 93.5% of her service games.
But will that serve hold up to Sabalenka’s return? The world No. 7 is in her first hard-court WTA 1000 semi-final of the season with victories over Anna Kalinskaya, Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai. Sabalenka is bidding for her biggest final since winning Madrid 2021.
“She’s been in the top 10 for quite a while now and always does well in the big events,” Garcia said. “You can always count on them. No matter how many double faults she makes in a game, she’s still here, still winning games and not afraid to try.
“So it’s going to be a big challenge for me. I’m really looking for it. It’s a good challenge to play against another aggressive player to see who can be the most aggressive and do their best.”
After struggling with her serve since last fall’s WTA Finals, Sabalenka has brought in a biomechanics specialist to help her manage her proposal.
“This season has been really crazy for me, a lot of challenges,” said Sabalenka. “I’m super proud of myself for being able to handle and fight for all these difficult moments this year. Even if something didn’t work out, I still gave my best, still fought for it.
“I’m super happy to be back in a semi-final and I’ll do my best tomorrow.”
Madison Keys vs. Petra Kvitova
Head to head: 4-4
Last meeting: Kvitova d. Key, 7-5, 6-4, 2021 Cincinnati first round
Game recognizes play and power recognizes power. When it comes to Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova, there’s nothing but admiration and respect between two of the biggest hitters in the game.
“She’s a great hitter, but even with the forehand she can sometimes play a little bit different style that she can bring it up a bit with more topspin,” Kvitova told reporters after her straight win over Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinals. “She moves very well. And especially on the serve, she has a lot of variety on the serve. She can go to Assen, she can have a kick, she has a nice technique of the serve.
“Definitely she has more types of this stuff. Not like me, I have nothing, I’m just boom boom.”
The two-time Wimbledon champion certainly undersold, especially in a week that saw her blast past Jil Teichmann, Sorana Cirstea, Ons Jabeur and Tomljanovic to reach her first WTA 1000 semi-final in two years.
The challenge for Kvitova will be physical. In a season where she struggled to string wins together, she admitted going into her quarterfinals feeling the wear and tear of the week. Fatigue forced them to play with more risk. It worked against Tomljanovic, but Keys presents other challenges.
Keys played relaxed, confident tennis at her home tournament. The Illinois native has rediscovered the attitude and game that earned her the Adelaide title and a semi-final at the Australian Open in January, using her booming groundstrokes with precision impact.
“I’ve obviously had some fights against Petra,” Keys said after her dominant victory over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. “Some won, some lost. It’s never easy to play her, especially later on in a draw, which means she plays very good tennis.”