World number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus powered past Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the French Open semifinals.
The match was highly anticipated with Svitolina, who last year became a mother, refusing to shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which it calls a ‘special military operation’.
Sabalenka, who next faces Czech Karolina Muchova, caused a furore in recent days, snubbing the media following her previous two matches after being grilled about the war and her country’s involvement as a staging ground for Russian weapons and troops.
With several Ukrainian flags unfurled in the half-empty stands of Philippe Chatrier stadium, the pair traded blows at the start, with neither managing to carve out a single break point in the first eight games.
But favourite Sabalenka, aiming for the world number one spot with a title win in Paris, grabbed the key break and then served out the first set a little later, with her opponent looping a backhand wide.
Svitolina broke for 2-0 in the second set as Sabalenka hit her 23rd unforced error, but the Ukrainian was still on the back foot and allowed her opponent to pull the break back when she netted a backhand.
Sabalenka continued her demolition job, breaking again for 3-2 with an unreturnable forehand.
Svitolina stayed afloat thanks to her opponent’s countless unforced errors, but the outcome was always in the Belarusian’s hands.
Sabalenka ended it on the second match point with yet another forehand winner and boos were heard as Svitolina walked straight to her bench while Sabalenka waited at the net.
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