Sabalenka, Thiem show impressive form at Madrid Open

Madrid, May 4 (EFE).- Aryna Sabalenka and Dominic Thiem were in dominating form on Tuesday at the Madrid Open, cruising to comfortable straight-set victories at that elite clay-court event.

Sabalenka, who had already put herself on the short list of Roland Garros favorites by routing world No. 3 Simona Halep last month at the Stuttgart Open, has shown no signs of slowing down at this WTA Premier Mandatory event and quickly brushed aside Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-2 in their round-of-16 clash.

The seventh-ranked Belarusian was determined to impose her power on her American opponent and executed her game plan to near perfection, winning 86 percent of her first-serve points, striking eight aces and 25 overall winners and not dropping her service once in a match that lasted just 52 minutes.

Pegula, a quarterfinalist at this year’s Australian Open, was unable to neutralize Sabalenka’s big ground strokes and was under constant pressure on her own serve.

For the match she won just 56 percent of her first-serve points and 31 percent of her second serve points and was broken on four occasions.

The talented Sabalenka had failed to advance past the first round in two previous appearances at the Madrid Open, but she now has the look of a potential champion.

“Everything was really good today,” Sabalenka said afterward. “She’s an aggressive player and she’s playing really well right now. I’m really happy that I could stay on this level and put pressure on her so she couldn’t do anything.”

Sabalenka’s opponent in the next round, Belgium’s Elise Mertens, rallied from service-break deficits in both the second and third sets en route to a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Halep, the 2018 French Open champion and a two-time winner in Madrid.

In other women’s round-of-16 action, 20th-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova came back from a 5-3 deficit in the third set to defeat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-7 (9-11), 7-5 and set up a quarterfinal match-up against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who edged 2021 Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady 7-5, 6-7 (8-10), 6-3.

In men’s round-of-32 action Tuesday, two-time French Open finalist and two-time Madrid Open runner-up Dominic Thiem, who had taken a nearly two-month hiatus after some sub-par performances earlier this year, looked refreshed in a 6-1, 6-3 rout of American qualifier Marcos Giron.

The fourth-ranked Austrian had a particularly good serving day, putting 80 percent of his first serves in the court and winning 81 percent of his first-serve points and 75 percent of his second-serve points.

While his forehand did most of the damage from the baseline, Thiem also unleashed a few stylish backhand down-the-line winners for good measure.

Most importantly, with Roland Garros less than four weeks away, the 27-year-old Austrian said he has fully recharged his batteries.

“For my game, I need 100 percent intensity and 100 percent energy,” the 2020 US Open champion said afterward. “I was just not able to put that on court in Doha, Dubai, or towards the end of the Australian Open, so that’s why it was better to take a break.”

Next up for Thiem in the round of 16 will be Australia’s Alex De Minaur, who was leading Lloyd Harris 6-2, 3-0 when the South African retired with a back injury. EFE


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