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Women's Third Round: Gauff, Sabalenka, Mertens Soar Into Round Of 16
3 Min Read · March 11, 2024

Aryna Sabalenka’s second match at the BNP Paribas Open this week proved to be a little more straightforward than her first. 

Sabalenka topped fellow Grand Slam winner Emma Raducanu 6-3, 7-5 on Monday afternoon to make the fourth round in Tennis Paradise.

Two days ago in the night session, Sabalenka thwarted four match points — including three in a row late in the third — and downed Peyton Stearns in a third-set tiebreak.


It had to be one of the most memorable matches in recent history in the desert.  Sabalenka also tweaked her ankle against the former NCAA singles champ but didn’t appear to be hindered against Raducanu.

“I think that I wasn’t rushing things,” said Sabalenka. “I was just staying within myself, trying to control myself and do everything to win this match. This was the key.”

The power hitter broke for 3-2 in the opener in the pair’s first meeting and seemed like she would cruise. But after Raducanu saved two set points at 2-5, Sabalenka was forced to overcome a 0-40 deficit at 5-3.

She did.

Raducanu showed grit, however, in overturning a break deficit in the second set. Sabalenka buckled but didn’t break, then once again re-established her lead courtesy of a deft drop shot for 6-5. In a mammoth last game, Sabalenka saved three break points — with a forehand winner, ace and backhand that drew an error — and converted on her four match point with a forehand winner.

Gauff Wins Last Singles Match As Teen

Coco Gauff hasn’t found her ‘A’ game — but she continues to find a way to win.

In her final singles match as a teen, the US Open winner, saved break points, took control, then edged a second-set tiebreak to beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (5). Afterwards, asked what she wanted for her 20th birthday on Wednesday, the Floridian’s request was far from extravagant.

“I’m just happy to be alive,” said Gauff. “That’s honestly a blessing. I’m really happy to see 20.”

Gauff trailed Clara Burel by a set and break, and 4-0 in the third set in her opening match. She was never in that danger against the World No. 53 but had to save nine break points in her first three service games. After saving five alone in the fifth game, Gauff immediately broke and opened up a set and 4-2 advantage. She produced some backhand magic, sending a backhand down the line and a lob over the outstretched Italian. Bronzetti rallied but couldn’t take the contest into a third set.

Mertens Beats Osaka In Thrilling Finish

After Gauff’s win, one couldn’t help but note that a Gauff-Naomi Osaka clash wasn’t far away. Elise Mertens, though, had other ideas and downed Osaka 7-5, 6-4 in a tussle not as straightforward as the score suggested.

Mertens — a doubles Grand Slam winner — led 3-0 and had a point for 4-0 in the first. Osaka hung on though, and won four straight games before Mertens crucially held firm serving at 4-5, then broke. Osaka rallied once again from a break down in the second, only for Mertens to lead 5-3, then 5-4.

It set the stage for a thrilling last game, similar to Sabalenka’s finale against Raducanu. Osaka made a pair of unforced errors on two break points but on a third later in the game, Mertens uncorked a gutsy second serve ace down the middle. She was able to finally celebrate when Osaka’s forehand strayed long.

“Happy to close it out in the last game,” Mertens, watched by mentor Kim Clijsters, said. “It was a little bit nerve-wracking in the end. I tried to get a lot of balls back deep, was the key, fairly pleased about my game that I actually could finish it out in two sets.”

Even though she lost, Osaka must be encouraged as she continues her comeback. The four-time Grand Slam winner, who gave birth to daughter Shai in July, collected the biggest ranking win of her return in the previous round against Liudmila Samsonova.

“All the credit to her coming back after such a long time,” said Mertens. “She’s a great champion.”

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