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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, September 5, 2022

 
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A resilient Aryna Sabalenka roared back from a set down defeating Danielle Collins 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach her second straight US Open quarterfinal.

Photo credit: Tim Clayton/Getty

NEW YORK—Deep deficits in major matches can invoke a fear factor in players.

Playing Grand Slam catch-up brings out Aryna Sabalenka's scary side.

More: Tiafoe Shocks Nadal

A resilient Sabalenka roared back from a set down defeating Danielle Collins 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach her second straight US Open quarterfinal.




Sabalenka knows all about creating major recovery: the Belarusian raised her 2022 Grand Slam record to 6-0 when losing the first set.

The sixth-seeded Sabalenka faced near competitive death in the second round and now stands two wins from her first Grand Slam final. Sabalenka recovered from a 2-6, 1-5 deficit and denied two match points rallying past Kaia Kanepi 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Down a set today against an overwhelmingly pro-Collins crowd, Sabalenka did not panic. Instead she swung freely and hit through Collins for the fourth time in as many meetings, beating the Australian Open finalist for the third time at the US Open.

Sabalenka said she feels invincible after her second-round revival.

"If you can come back from these kind of scores then nothing can hurt you," Sabalenka told ESPN's Rennae Stubbs in her on-court interview. "You just go in the next matches and know that you will fight for it no matter what.

"I'm just enjoying every second on court that match definitely gave me more confidence and maybe that's why today I was able to keep pushing myself, keep trying and keep fighting."

The 2021 US Open semifinalist fought into her third Grand Slam quarterfinal where she will face 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova.

The 2021 Wimbledon finalist Pliskova out-dueled two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2. Pliskova saved 11 of 14 break points in a three hour, two-minute triumph. Sabalenka and Pliskova have split four career matches.

Stepping into the court, Collins was wreaking havoc off both wings at the outset tonight. Ultimately, Collins' inability to land her first serve at crunch time cost her dearly. Collins served just 38 percent with three aces and 12 double faults.




When Sabalenka netted a return a fired-up Collins screamed at her support box collecting the opening set.

The pair traded love breaks in the fourth and fifth games. In fact, four of the first five games of the second set were shutouts.

Staring down another break point in the sixth game, Collins saved a break point with a fine low forehand volley spiking a massive crowd roar.

Sabalenka asked the chair umpire to make a statement on crowd noise saying "They're just screaming out during the point."

Collins saved a second break point, but she was chasing her ball toss floating too far out in front of her at times. A double fault gave Sabalenka a third break point, but Collins cranked a wide ace and serve winner to get to game point. Collins whipped the wide serve to open the court then slammed a two-hander down the line holding strong to level after six games.




Screaming shots escalated during a marathon seventh game that spanned 15 minutes and 15 seconds. A stubborn Sabalenka repelled everything a determined Collins threw at her, finally coaxing a netted backhand to end a tense 22-point game and hold for 4-3.

When the game ended, Sabalenka looked to be limping a bit as she walked to her court-side seat where she took a visit from the trainer to address an apparent left thigh issue.

"That game at 3-all I think it was a key game," Sabalenka said. "I was just trying my best. I was trying to serve well. I was trying to make her move and I was just trying to stay in this game as much as I could and I think i did it well.

"She played unbelievable tennis. It was a crazy level today and I'm super happy with the win. She's tough to play against and I'm just super happy right now."

That draining duel game sapped some concentration from Collins, who double-faulted away the break ceding a 5-3 lead to Sabalenka.

The sixth-seeded Belarusian dodged a break point serving for the set. Sabalenka threaded the needle with a forehand pass down the line for a second set point. Showing guts on a second serve, Sabalenka slid her fourth ace down the middle to force a final set.

The Australian Open finalist blinked first in the decider. Collins slapped a shot into net gifting the break and a 2-1 lead to Sabalenka.

Sharper serving and heavy groundstrokes powered Sabalenka to a 3-1 lead.

When Collins missed her first serve, Sabalenka sometimes pulverized the second serve. Rapping a pair of forehand return winners brought the Belarusian another break point. When Collins floated a forehand, Sabalenka went up a double break at 4-1.

Sabalenka rocketed a 115 mph serve off the sideline for match point. One final crackling serve ended it. Sabalenka raised her arms and blew kisses to the crowd moving into her second straight US Open quarterfinal.

 

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