Muguruza upset, Jabeur suffers injury scare days before Australian Open

Garbine Muguruza of Spain hits a return against Daria Kasatkina of Russia during their women's singles quarter-final match at the Sydney Classic tennis tournament in Sydney, January 13, 2022. — AFP
Garbine Muguruza of Spain hits a return against Daria Kasatkina of Russia during their women’s singles quarter-final match at the Sydney Classic tennis tournament in Sydney, January 13, 2022. — AFP

SYDNEY, Jan 13 — World number three Garbine Muguruza was sent packing from the Sydney Classic in the quarter-finals today by clinical Russian Daria Kasatkina, who continued her strong start to the season ahead of the Australian Open.

Muguruza had a first-round bye then had to battle hard to topple 40th-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova, before crashing to Kastakina 6-4, 6-4.

It was the second semi-final in as many weeks the Russian has reached after losing in the last four of the Melbourne Summer Set to eventual champion Amanda Anisimova.

Kasatkina is a former world number 10 who bounced back up the rankings to 26 last year after winning two titles and reaching a further two finals.

“It’s very good preparation before a Slam,” she said. “At the beginning I was a bit over-excited but in the end I was able to control myself and make a few good decisions.”

She will meet ninth-ranked Paula Badosa for the place in Saturday’s final after the Spaniard fought past Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-3.

Kontaveit through

In-form world number seven Anett Kontaveit also made the last four after Ons Jabeur, ranked three places below her, retired hurt.

The Estonian won a tight first set 6-4 before the Tunisian called for a medical timeout. After lengthy treatment on her lower back, Jabeur forfeited the match.

It is a big setback for Jabeur, with the opening Grand Slam of the year starting on Monday. She had a breakthrough 2021, when she won her maiden WTA singles title and surged into the top 10 for the first time.

Kontaveit will now play world number four and French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, with the Czech crushing France’s Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-2.

“It’s never the way you want to win and I really hope Ons is going to be fine for next week and that it’s nothing too serious,” said the Estonian.

“The first set was really competitive and we’ve had some tough matches before and she’s always come out on top, so it was good to get the set and that I was playing the way I was playing.”

The understated Kontaveit is shaping up as a serious contender at Melbourne Park after her electric form in the second half of last season, capturing four titles in two months before ending runner-up at the WTA Finals to Garbine Muguruza.

Krejcikova also raced through the rankings last year, winning at Roland Garros, Strasbourg and Prague.

“I’m glad to be putting myself in these situations and getting good matches and getting quality time on court,” she said.

Among the men, Russia’s Aslan Karatsev defeated Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to make the semis while British veteran Andy Murray enjoyed an easier passage.

The former world number one, who has been given a wildcard into the Australian Open, was back in the changing rooms after one set when David Goffin retired after losing the opener 6-2.

Murray will now meet Reilly Opelka after he beat fellow American Brandon Nakashima in straight sets. — AFP