Former world number one Victoria Azarenka reached the quarter-finals of the season’s WTA 1000 at the Guadalajara Open Akron on Thursday, ending WTA Finals hopes for 13th seed Madison Keys with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1 win.
Furthermore, Azarenka’s defeat of the Keys meant that Daria Kasatkina and Arina Sabalenka qualified for the WTA Finals. Kasatkina and Sabalenka grabbed two of the last three places in the singles arena for the year-end championship, with only one place remaining.
This week, Keys had a last-minute shot at Fort Worth with her finalist and other results working her way, but her loss to Azarenka eliminates the American from the competition.
The quarter-final match between Azarenka and No. 5 seed Coco Gauff will take place on Friday. This will be the first meeting between 33-year-old Azarenka and 18-year-old Goff.
Azarenka has won 21 Hologic WTA singles titles during her career, including back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and 2013. However, she hasn’t won a title in over two years, and has only reached the quarter-finals this season. Guadalajara, lose both.
But Azarenka fought back to reach her biggest quarter-final of the season to date with a two-hour, 14-minute win over the Keys. Azarenka let the second set lead slip away and slipped behind an early break in the third, but recovered to advance 3-0 in her head-to-head with Keys.
Azarenka qualified for the 34th quarter-finals of the World Tennis 1000 of her career. Only Agnieszka Radwanska (42), Simona Halep (39) and Caroline Wozniacki (36) have reached the WTA 1000 quarter-finals since the level was established in 2009.
Earlier on Thursday, 8th seed Veronika Kudretova remained in contention for the final singles spot in the WTA Finals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko.
Ostapenko had easily defeated Kudermetova in her only previous encounter, in this year’s Dubai final, but Kudermetova turned the tables with her 94-minute victory on Thursday. Kudermetova blasted 11 aces as she lost in the quarter-finals.
Kudermetova is still in contention for a singles debut at the prestigious year-end tournament in Fort Worth. She will already be in the doubles, as she and teammate Elise Mertens qualified for the field earlier this month.
Ostapenko entered the match with a slim chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals, but needed to win the title this week, so she was eliminated by a loss. However, Ostapenko will also be a double participant in Fort Worth, as she and Lyudmyla Kichenok qualified on the same day as Kudermetova and Mertens.
Also on Thursday, Mexico’s top two players, Marie Buzkova and Sloane Stephens, continued their phenomenal run this week by reaching the quarter-finals.
Buzkova, who won her first singles title earlier this year in Prague, beat Lyudmila Samsonova 0-6 7-5 6-3 in two and a half hours. Two of the four singles finals were held in Bozkova in Mexico, in Monterrey in 2020 and in Guadalajara’s WTA 250 this year.
It was Stephens, in fact, who defeated Bozkova to win the Guadalajara WTA 250 race in February. Stevens, the 2017 US Open champion, continued to advance in the city as she beat number six Caroline Garcia 7-6 (6), 7-5 on Thursday. It’s Stephens’ first win in this year’s top ten list.
Stephens, who won another Mexican title in 2016 in Acapulco, returned 5-0 6-3 in the first set tiebreak and saved three points. Stephens then repelled the second set increase by Garcia to retain only her second win in their six meetings.
Despite the loss, Garcia can forgive the fact that she qualified for her second trip to the WTA Finals on Wednesday after other results.
More is coming…