Novak Djokovic crushed Taylor Fritz while Carlos Alcaraz had to push hard to get past Max Purcell Friday as the top two seeds reached the semi-finals at the ATP/WTA Cincinnati Open. Tournament number two Djokovic showed no mercy against Fritz, hammering the top American 6-0, 6-4 to improve to 7-0 against him. World number one Alcaraz rallied to hold off Australian qualifier Purcell 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
After pocketing the opening set against Fritz in a mere 21 minutes, two-time tournament winner Djokovic was broken to start the second set as a backhand landed long. The 23-time Grand Slam champion regained the break in the eighth game when Fritz drove a forehand into the net. Djokovic broke again two games later, securing the match on his first match point after just 62 minutes.
“I managed to get out of the blocks with a flawless start,” the Serb star said. “I started the second set poorly, handing him the break.
“But from 2-4 down I played four solid games, overall it was a great performance. I’ve played three good matches here so far, every day I raise the bar a bit higher.
“I’m feeling better on court. I hope the same trajectory can continue,” added Djokovic, who next faces German Alexander Zverev. Zverev, the 2021 Cincy champion, beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-3 to reach his first Masters semi-final since Rome last year — before a horror ankle injury in Paris ended his 2022 campaign. Alcaraz, meanwhile, was caught off-guard by 70th-ranked Purcell, dropping the first set in 44 minutes.
Alcaraz steadied the ship to force a third, struggling through an exchange of service breaks before breaking for a 5-4 lead and serving out the victory. The reigning Wimbledon champion, chasing a seventh title of the season, polished off the win in two and a quarter hours with an ace among his 29 winners.
“It was really tough and tricky today, he serves really well,” Alcaraz said. “He played well at the net. I returned well, that was the key to the win.”
Alcaraz booked a semi-final clash with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who needed seven match points to finally put away Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-1, 7-6 (10/8).
Swiatek tops Vondrousova
In the WTA draw, top-seeded Iga Swiatek proved to be a quick learner as she ousted Marketa Vondrousova 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 in a battle of Grand Slam champions. Swiatek, the reigning US Open and French Open champion, said she applied the lessons from her first-set struggles in the second to sweep past Wimbledon winner Vondrousova.
She had lost serve twice in the opening set as she struggled with Vondrousova’s lefty game, but broke as the Czech served for the set and eventually won the tiebreaker. Swiatek dominated the second set to claim the victory in 93 minutes.
“It’s not easy to adjust to her spin,” Swiatek said. “After the first set, I was determined to fight for every ball.
“I was more focused and I knew what worked,” she added. “I learned from the first set. I knew exactly how I should play.”
The Polish star will play for a place in the final against seventh-seeded American Coco Gauff — who tossed a racquet in anger on the way to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italian qualifier Jasmine Paolini. “Usually they say don’t throw your racquet but I won six games in a row,” Gauff said. “What can you do? At least no one got hurt.”
Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka beat Ons Jabeur 7-5, 6-3 in 85 minutes. Sabalenka had nine aces and broke Jabeur nine times as the Tunisian struggled with a foot injury in the second set. Sabalenka lined up a French Open semi-final rematch against Czech Karolina Muchova, who advanced to the final four as compatriot Marie Bouzkova retired injured after losing all three games they played.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka will be out to turn the tables on Muchova, who saved a match point on the way to her upset win over the world number two in the semis at Roland Garros.