AP Sports

Top seeds Swiatek, Alcaraz reach the semifinals at the Western & Southern Open

MASON, Ohio (AP) — Top-ranked Iga Swiatek overcame a rough start and a dispute with the chair umpire to defeat Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 7-6, 6-1 on Friday and advance to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open, a tournament she has never won.

Vondrousova was up 5-4 and serving for the first set before Swiatek broke, eventually winning a tiebreaker before cruising in the second.

The Czech’s left-handed serve made things difficult for the Polish four-time major singles champ.

“It wasn’t easy getting used to her lefty spin,” Swiatek said. “I practice sometimes with lefties at home. At the beginning it might be a little bit tough. You just have to adjust.”

Swiatek had a post-match exchange with chair umpire Marija Cicak after she felt rushed by Vondrousova throughout the match. By rule, players have up to 25 seconds to serve following a point.

“I really respect Marija, but she’s also very strict with the rules,” Swiatek said. “I have to be ready when (Vondrousova) is ready. She was ready always when there was still 20 seconds. The last two games, we played some long rallies. I’m human, I need to breathe.”

At one point in the match, Swiatek seemed distracted by spectators walking to their seats.

“Iga, those people walking around are fine,” Cicak told her. “We need to play!”

Swiatek will face seventh-seeded American Coco Gauff on Saturday. Gauff beat Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 6-2. Swiatek has won all seven previous meetings.

“We’ve played plenty of times, so I can know her game,” Swiatek said. “But you never know what she’ll come up with. I’ll be ready and kind of focus on myself.”

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka got past fifth seed Ons Jabeur 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals for the second straight year. Jabeur got treatment on her right foot during the second set and struggled after that.

Sabalenka will face Karolina Muchova, who advanced when Marie Bouzkova retired with a right thigh injury.

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz staved off an upset bid by Australian qualifier Max Purcell, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to earn a rematch with Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

“I didn’t know him so much before the match,” Alcaraz said of Purcell. “He impressed me a lot. It was really tough for me. I’m really happy to get through.”

It was the third time this week that the Wimbledon champion needed three sets to win.

The top-ranked Alcaraz needed two tiebreaks to beat Hurkacz last week in Toronto.

“When we played in Toronto, we had a great match,” Alcaraz said. “Here in Cincinnati, the court’s a little faster than Toronto. So it probably suits better to his game. We need to be at the best level to beat him.”

In the nightcap on center court, No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic beat ninth-seeded American Taylor Fritz 6-0, 6-4. Djokovic will face Alexander Zverev, the 2021 tournament champ, in the semifinals on Saturday.

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