STUTTGART: World No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek set up a US Open final rematch with Ons Jabeur when she battled into the Stuttgart last four on Friday.
Swiatek defeated 2018 Stuttgart champion Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 while Tunisian world No. 4 Jabeur eased past Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-3, 6-0.
Poland’s Swiatek had defeated Pliskova without losing a game when they met on clay in the 2021 Rome final.
However, the Czech took control straightaway on Friday, racing to a 4-0 lead in a little over a quarter of an hour.
Swiatek responded by sweeping the first four games of the second set to level the contest and after breaking for 2-1 in the decider, was never troubled again.
Swiatek holds a 3-2 career lead over Jabeur with their most recent clash coming in the US Open final last year when the Pole won in straight sets for her second major of 2022.
“The good thing maybe, Iga is not at the same level as she was last year,” said Jabeur.
“I think maybe the key is to be unpredictable with Iga, not knowing which shots I’m going to do. I think that’s really good to disturb her a lot.”
World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka came from a set and a break down to see off Spanish wild card Paula Badosa and reach the semifinals for the third consecutive year.
The Belarusian won through 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours, 30 minutes and next meets Russian Anastasia Potapova who ousted French fourth seed Caroline Garcia 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In a tight first set, Badosa saved three break points to serve out, and opened a 6-4, 4-2 lead before Sabalenka broke back for 4-4, reeling off seven games on the trot for a 3-0 lead in the third set.
“I was just talking to myself and saying, OK, just try one more time, just try to put the ball back, and then run and move and try to win this game and probably you can win this set,” said Sabalenka of the key eighth game in the second set.
“Then who knows what’s going to happen in the third set? Definitely that game was the key game.”
In the decider, the pair traded serves with five breaks but 31st-ranked Badosa, who fell to Sabalenka in the semifinals in Stuttgart last year, paid for a string of double faults with nine in total.
Sabalenka sealed victory on her second match point with a backhand into an open court nailing her 40th winner of the day.
The Australian Open champion advances to her fourth semifinal in six tournaments this year, with her overall record now 22-3 for 2023.
Sabalenka is seeking her first Stuttgart title after two runner-up finishes in 2021 to Ashleigh Barty and in 2022 to Swiatek.
Potapova, ranked at 24 in the world, claimed her third top-five win with a 2-hour, 12-minute upset of Garcia.
She fired 19 winners to Garcia’s 34, but also committed 42 unforced errors compared to her seeded opponent’s 69.