Madrid: Stefanos Tsitsipas felt like his rival was as fast as a cheetah on centre court at the Madrid Open.
Point after point, his opponent Sebastian Baez kept chasing down balls to stay in contention in the third-round match.
Gliding like cheetah
The third-seeded Tsitsipas came through in the clutch moments, though, earning a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over the 31st-ranked Baez on Monday to secure a spot in the last 16 of the clay-court tournament.
Tsitsipas won the last four games of the opening set and the last three of the third to advance.
“I had to bring the best out of my game,” Tsitsipas said. “He wasn’t missing much. Of course, he’s someone that covers and runs around the court pretty well. He definitely utilised that pretty well against me, being able to navigate himself throughout the entire court with ease, just gliding through the court like a cheetah.”
Fighting every single point
Tsitsipas broke for 5-3 in the third set and saved two break points before serving it out.
“He really fought for every single point,” Tsitsipas said, “and I’m glad obviously that I overcame this.”
Tsitsipas, seeking his first title of the season, improved to 8-2 on clay. He was a finalist in the Australian Open and last week in Barcelona. He also was a finalist at Madrid in 2019, and a semifinalist again in 2022.
Women’s world No 1 Iga Swiatek dropped her first set of the tournament before securing a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3 win over 16th-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova. She will be making her first quarterfinal appearance in Madrid against 27th-seeded Petra Martic, who advanced past 11th-seeded Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 7-6 (1).
Swiatek is the first player to reach the quarterfinals or better at eight consecutive clay-court tournaments since Simona Halep made it to 10 in a row between 2016 and 2019.
Third-seeded American Jessica Pegula, last year’s runner-up in Madrid, reached the last eight by beating Martina Trevisan 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka advanced after ending Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva’s impressive run at the tournament.
After three straight-set victories against top-40 opponents in her main-draw debut, the 16-year-old wildcard entry lost 6-3, 6-1 to Sabalenka in her first centre-court appearance in Madrid.
Andreeva became the youngest player to reach the last 16 of a WTA 1000 event after upsetting 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in the first round, 14th-ranked Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second and 19th-ranked Magda Linette in the third. She won 16 straight matches at all levels before falling to Sabalenka, her first Top 10 opponent.
“I’m really happy with the result,” Sabalenka said. “In the first few games I was just trying to adjust to her game and her rhythm. After that I started feeling my game a little bit better and started playing better.”
Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion and the 2021 Madrid Open winner, has reached the quarterfinals or better in all seven tournaments she has played in 2023, carrying a 26-4 record for the year.
Her next opponent will be Mayar Sherif, who beat Elise Merten 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 after nearly three hours to become the first Egyptian to reach the quarterfinals of a WTA 1000 tournament. She was already the first Egyptian woman to play in a Grand Slam, and the first to win a tour title.
Crowd favourite loses
“It means a lot, just mentally, to be able to know that I can do this, that I can compete at the highest level in tennis,” said the 59th-ranked Sherif, who lives and trains in Spain. “It gives me a lot of motivation to keep improving ... and to obviously take that confidence for the rest of the year.”
Ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari advanced over home-crowd favourite Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-4, while 12th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova beat eighth-seeded Daria Kasatkina 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (2).
Medvedev rallies to win
Men’s No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev twice rallied from a break down in the last set to reach the last 16 at the expense of fellow Russian Alexander Shevchenko by 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. The victory took Medvedev to a tour-best 33-4 record. He will next face qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who defeated 16th-seeded Alex de Minaur 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
In other men’s matches, eighth-seeded Taylor Fritz beat Cristian Garin 6-1, 7-6 (4), Zhang Zhizhen upset 11th-seeded Cameron Norrie 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) and Bernabe Zapata Miralles outlasted qualifier Roman Safiullin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.