MADRID, Spain – The semifinals are set at the Mutua Madrid Open, where Tunisian Ons Jabeur and American Jessica Pegula lead the hosts against Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann and surprise qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova.
In the first semifinal of the 10th Jabeur fights against Alexandrova, who became the third qualifier to ever advance to the semifinals of Madrid. In her second WTA 1000 semi-final and first on clay, Jabeur is the best-ranked member of the Madrid final four. But here’s the twist: Alexandrova has won six of their seven previous encounters at all levels.
In the second semi-final, the 14th issue of Pegula and Teichmann, born in Barcelona, will face off for the first time. The American continues to prove herself as one of the best players at the WTA 1000 level after entering her second consecutive WTA 1000 semifinals. But Teichmann is no novice. The Swiss is in her third WTA 1000 semi-final and the first since reaching the final in Cincinnati last summer.
Madrid Open quarterfinal results:
Here’s how Thursday’s semifinals unfold:
No.10 Ons Jabeur v. 45 Ekaterina Alexandrova
The Jabeur case
The 6-1 game in favor of Alexandrova goes beyond mere advantage and moves into the realm of dominance. Jabeur played with Alexander on the grass, on clay and on hard surfaces, and lost on every surface. Some conflicts come with warnings, but you can’t ignore the fact that six of the seven matches going in one direction imply an inherent matching problem.
Even so, unpacking the rivalry reveals how Jabeur has a chance. All six matches played were played at the ITF or qualifying level between 2016 and 2018 (the seventh was in Moscow last year and ended with Jabeur retiring). During that time period, Jabeur went in and out of the Top 100 and usually only showed flashes of her top form in a few tournaments each year. Although she has always had hot shots, the Tunisian only had the discipline in 2020 to combine them into a coherent game plan.
Since then, Jabeura’s commitment to fulfilling her talent has been illustrated by continuous improvements in every area, from her fitness to her strength. This week, she has already beaten two players she has never won completely before, Belinda Benčić and Simona Halep. In those matches, Jabeur showed his ability to refrain from failure in the result; and at the same time simplify your game all the way to serving and forehand tennis when needed, while leaving enough space for your creativity as a trademark. These are traits she did not possess when she lost to Alexander half a decade ago.
Moreover, the Madrid conditions suit Jabeur. Faster clay than usual increases its power, while at the same time providing a canvas for its touch. And after an emotional defeat by Bencic in the Charleston final – her fourth-place finish in five WTA titles to date – Jabeur used that sting to rebuild her drive. Against Halep she was focused and ruthless. The opportunity to win the WTA 1000 crown and get even deeper into the Top 10 is so close that Jabeur can taste it. – Alex Macpherson
The case of Alexandrova
Alexandrova will be the first to tell you not to play on clay, but her results in 2022 would disprove that claim. Through three competitions on clay, the 27-year-old has reached the semifinals of two major competitions, first in Charleston and now in the biggest series of her career in Madrid.
“I was a little scared before the clay season because I didn’t know what to expect from myself. Clay is a tough surface for me. I need time to prepare, but I didn’t have that much time before Charleston. And then it went so easily! I was surprised. I want to keep the same feeling on the clay for as long as possible and enjoy the clay for the first time. I don’t hate it. I’m starting to like it! “
Alexandrova’s talent as a striker is undeniable, but her movement has been the key to success on clay this season. After struggling in the early part of the season on hard surfaces, where she said she felt lost on the field, Alexandrova has now found her style. When she’s ready to strike and doesn’t think too much about the moment, she can hit anyone.
Not thinking too much is the key to Alexandra’s quick success on the ground and she will apply the same strategy for her upcoming match against a famous opponent. Alexandrova has won six of her seven matches against Jabeur, but insists she won’t read much about it.
“She’s an amazing player,” Alexandrova said. “Every time I played against her it was super hard. The last game didn’t end, so it’s hard to say, and the previous matches were a long time ago.” – Courtney Nguyen
No.14 Jessica Pegula v. 35 Jil Teichmann
The Pegula case
Another week, another deep run for Pegula at the WTA 1000. The American has shown remarkable consistency at the highest level of the tour, passing the round of 16 or better in 10 of the last 11 WTA 1000 tournaments and has now booked her second consecutive semi-final, after doing so in Miami last month. But Pegula’s consolation on the ground was the real story in Madrid, where she scored victories over Camilo Giorgi (saving the ball), Caio Canepi, Bianco Andreescu and Sarah Sorribes Tormo to achieve the biggest earth semifinal of her career.
“I feel like I’m moving better on clay than in years past,” Pegula said. “I don’t think people think of me as a player on the ground. But especially here the conditions suit me better than elsewhere. So I don’t think I’m surprised, but I’m happy to be here.”
Pegula’s growth on the surface began last spring in Rome where she defeated Daria Kasatkina, Naomi Osaka and Alexandrova to advance to the quarterfinals. Since then, her physical and mental play has only grown in comfort and confidence. To beat Andreescu and Sorribes Torm in direct sets, the 28-year-old’s discipline and tactical sharpness were fully demonstrated. With the intention of entering his first WTA 1000 final, Pegula will face Teichmann’s talents on all pitches for the first time.
“I don’t think I even think we practiced together,” Pegula said. “There are a lot of unknowns.
“She’s one of those people I think is why she’s not ranked anymore? It kind of annoys me. You have to be ranked in the Top 50 at least, in the Top 20 by me. She made it to the Cincy finals, so it’s good to see she’s back and “She’s left-handed, so I’m going to have to adjust to that, but I’m playing well and doing a good job while I’m out. So I feel confident.” – Courtney Nguyen
The case for Teichmann
The breakthrough season of 2019 marked Teichmann as a player who will circle in the draws on clay courts. Switzerland won its first two Hologic WTA Tour individual titles on the pitches in Prague and Palermo over three months.
Injuries prevented her from realizing her potential on the base last year, but Teichmann made up for it by showing her ability to excel at the WTA 1000 level on any surface. Last year, she recorded strong results in the WTA 1000 tournaments on hard ground, reaching the semifinals of Dubai and her biggest finals of her career in Cincinnati.
This week in Madrid, Teichmann combines all this with aplomb at the WTA 1000 tournament on clay. The 35th tennis player of the world surpassed the higher ranked Petra Kvitova, Leylah Fernandez and Elena Rybakina without losing a set, making it known that an exceptional performance will be needed to derail her magic on the ground.
Teichmann performed their game in the quarterfinals with a top effect against Angelina Kalinina. There, Teichmann used her striking left-handed forehand and solid serves to score key points in a number of close games, scoring another win in a row.
Teichmann must maintain that timely aggression against Jessica Pegula in her first encounter, as the American found stellar form on Wednesday to beat fast-paced Sarah Sorribes Tormo. However, Teichmann knows that faster conditions on the clay in Madrid increase her chances.
“Here with the height, my serve is great,” Teichmann said after her quarterfinals. “I get a lot of free points, and I also get the first ball a little easier than on classic clay. I obviously knew that the conditions with my heavy turning here were also great.
“It simply came to our notice then. I just came to play. Anyway, I had a tough draw, so I just take game after match, which I think is the smartest thing, ”added Teichmann with a smile. – Jason Juzwiak