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Alcaraz, Sabalenka sail through at China Open

By AFP - Oct 01,2023 - Last updated at Oct 01,2023

BEIJING — Top seeds Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka both breezed into the next round of the China Open with routine victories on Sunday.

Alcaraz sealed a place in the men’s quarter-finals with a smooth 6-2, 6-2 victory over Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in Beijing.

The World No.2 overpowered his opponent and seized the first set when Musetti whacked a baseline backhand into the net.

The Spaniard then broke serve twice in the second set and saw out a comfortable match with an unreturned serve.

He will next face Casper Ruud after the world number nine came back to beat Argentina’s Tomas Etcheverry 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7).

“I feel great, honestly. It was a good performance against a really tough opponent,” Alcaraz said at a post-match press briefing.

“[My level] didn’t [go] up and down. I stayed at a high level, high quality, during the whole match,” the 20-year-old said.

A sticking point in the tournament’s early rounds has been the match balls, which Alcaraz’s main challenger Daniil Medvedev described on Saturday as “like a grapefruit”.

Alcaraz said on Sunday he had also felt the distinct quality of the balls — allegedly quick to fluff up — “since day one”.

“It’s something tough, but tennis players have to get used to the balls in every tournament,” he said in response to a question from AFP.

“Here, in just one or two games, the balls become really different from [when they’re] new. It’s a kind of different [style of] play,” he said.

Also on Sunday, world number seven Jannik Sinner obliterated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-0.

The Italian will play a quarter-final against either fourth-ranked Holger Rune or Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who play each other on Sunday evening.

Earlier, World No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka sailed into the second round of the women’s draw with an imperious 6-1, 6-2 defeat of American Sofia Kenin.

The Belarusian pummelled Kenin with a succession of mighty serves and ground strokes and wrapped up the opening set with an ace after just 23 minutes.

The 25-year-old broke serve twice more in the second set as Kenin — playing with heavy strapping on her left thigh — failed to muster a response.

Sabalenka sealed the match with yet another unreturned serve to set up a tie against either Magdalena Frech or Katie Boulter in the next round.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to play that good on my serve — in practice, it didn’t work very well,” Sabalenka said at a post-match briefing.

“But I was super hyped that I was able to bring that level on my serve today. I think it helped a lot,” she said.

“I think that was the key of today’s match.”

The China Open is taking place for the first time since 2019 after Beijing ended its isolationist zero-COVID policies.

All of the eight top-ranked men are taking part except tennis legend Novak Djokovic, while all of the women’s top eight are in action.


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