Miami Open: Cirstea upsets heated Sabalenka to reach tennis semifinal

Sorana Cirstea from Romania smiles after beating Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus at the Miami Open on Wednesday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
1 of 6 | Sorana Cirstea from Romania smiles after beating Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus at the Miami Open on Wednesday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., March 29 (UPI) -- Aryna Sabalenka flung open her court-side refrigerator and covered her face with an ice bag as she struggled to overcome heat, in addition to quarterfinal foe Sorana Cirstea in an upset loss Wednesday at the Miami Open.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 player in the world, was not only permeated by the sun, but also frustration. She slammed her racket several times on the court inside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. And the Belarusian bellowed at the chair umpire following her frequent errant serves and returns.


"I think I'm a bit speechless," victor Cirstea, the No. 74 player in the world, told the Tennis Channel. "I came out hoping it would be a tough match.

"I tried really hard to hold my ground. I'm very happy with my performance today. It's a bit unexpected, to be honest."


Cirstea will meet No. 18 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia or No. 12 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the Miami Open semifinals.

The winner will advance to the women's finale Sunday in Miami Gardens. Cirstea hasn't played in a final -- at the WTA's premier level -- since 2013, when she lost to Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup.

Cirstea started her upset victory with a 6-4 first-set win. Sabalenka used her powerful serve to rally early in the second set. The 2023 Australian Open champion broke Cirstea's serve in the fourth game of the set as part of a run to win three-consecutive games.

Cirstea responded by rediscovering her brilliant return game. She ended Sabalenka's streak with a sixth game victory. She broke Sabalenka's serve in the next game and held in the eighth to earn a 5-3 edge.

Sabalenka held serve in the ninth game. She then hit her final return long, which gave Cirstea match point and ended the 85-minute match.

Cirstea's current run of success includes wins in 9 of her last 10 matches. That streak includes victories in three of her last four matches against Top 5 players.

"I think these results show the work I've put in, because in the last couple of months I've worked really hard," Cirstea said at her post-match news conference. "I don't know where to rank this match, but it's a joy and a relief that it's paying off."


The 29-year-old Romanian also advanced to the quarterfinals earlier this month at the BNP Paribas Open, where she lost to No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland.

That run in Indian Wells, Calif., included an upset of No. 4 Caroline Garcia of France, who she also beat in the Miami Open's Round of 64.

She started the Miami Open with a first-round win over Fernanda Contreras Gomez of Mexico. She then edged Garcia in straight sets. She beat Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova, both of the Czech Republic, in her next two matches to reach the quarterfinals.

Alexandrova will battle Kvitova in another quarterfinal Wednesday night. The winner will meet Cirstea in the semifinals Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium.

"They are two different opponents," Cirstea said of Alexandrova and Kvitova. "Petra, I know really well, we've been playing a lot against each other. We've always had great matches. She is a very aggressive player with big weapons.

"I've never played Alexandrova, so I don't know too much about her. Whoever wins their [quarterfinal], it means they are playing well. But I will be ready, just like I was today."

No. 3 Jessica Pegula of the United States will face No. 7 Elena Rybakina of Kazakstan in the other women's semifinal.


The women's singles final will be held Saturday afternoon in Miami Gardens. The men's final will be Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

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