At one set and a break down, Aryna Sabalenka kept her cool on Tuesday in the Manolo Santana Stadium, digging deep to become the first semi-finalist at this year’s Mutua Madrid Open.
The world No. 2 was the only player of those in the last eight of the WTA draw who knows what it is to lift the title in the Caja Mágica (2021) and she drew on all her experience to comeback against the Egyptian Mayar Sherif and win 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and one minute of tennis.
“It was a crazy match. I’m super happy that I was able to turn around the game and win this one. I think she played unbelievable tennis. It was really tough today”, she said after the game.
Sabalenka grew into a match in which she was caught off-guard by a world No. 59 who has enjoyed the best WTA 1000 in her career in Madrid, having previously only progressed from round one in Indian Wells (2021).
“I think I’m really mentally strong. I’ve had so many matches like that when I was behind in the score or when I was down match points and I’ve come back”, she explained.
The current Australian Open champion has played some impressive tennis during the transition from hard court to clay. So far, only world No.1 Iga Swiatek has been capable of defeating her on the latter surface, in the final of their last event, in Stuttgart.
The run has given her a balance of seven wins in her eight matches on the red stuff in 2023. Her overall return for the season is 24 wins and seven defeats.
Sabalenka will now meet the winner of the clash between Maria Sakkari and Irina-Camelia Begu in the semis. She leads her head to head with the Greek 5-3, their last encounter coming this year in Indian Wells. As for the Romanian, a potential meeting here would end the stalemate (1-1 head to head) they reached in Adelaide, where the world No. 2 taking the spoils.
“They’re both tough matches. I played against them this season, and they were really tough battles. Both fight for every point. I would say that both are really great clay court players. It doesn’t matter who I’m facing. I will just try to prepare myself as well as I can and make sure that I bring my tennis in that semi-final”, she concluded.