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Elise Mertens bows out of US open after reaching quarter-finals
Flemish tennis pro Elise Mertens has played her final match at the US Open after a comprehensive defeat to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the quarter-finals. Mertens, 24, had beaten Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the US in the previous round, but suffered a crushing defeat by Azarenka, who will now face Serena Williams in the semi-finals.
Mertens, seeded 16th in the competition, lost to the Belarussian in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0. In a press conference after the match, she said the contest had been closer than the score suggested.
“Many games were close, so I think the score is a bit exaggerated. I certainly didn’t play my worst game of all time. I didn’t really do anything wrong, but it wasn’t good enough,” she said. “Azarenka just did everything perfectly and hit every ball well. Everything worked out for her, she was in complete control. If she keeps playing like this, everyone will have a hard time against her.”
After her remarkable victory in the last 16, expectations were high when Mertens went into the match against Azarenka. The Belarusian, ranked 27 in the world but unseeded for this tournament, dispatched the Belgian in only 73 minutes and looked comfortable throughout.
Mertens (lef) also made the quarter-finals in doubles with partner Aryna Sabalenka
“We expected an exciting match, Elise was playing tennis so well in the previous match against Sofia Kenin,” said VRT commentator Sabine Appelmans. “You think she can do that again, but it was a day when nothing worked, and her opponent was simply too strong. Azarenka played the perfect game. She had a game plan and executed it to perfection.”
Azarenka took a break from tennis in 2016 when she had a child, and personal difficulties led to her withdrawing from a series of competitions in subsequent years. However, the 31-year-old was back to her best against Mertens, who made 22 unforced errors to Azarenka’s 11.
The match against Williams will be Azarenka’s first Grand Slam semi-final since 2013. In 22 matches between the two women, Williams has won all but four.
Mertens also reached the final eight of this year’s doubles event with her partner, Aryna Sabalenka, also from Belarus. The pair won the event in 2019, when their opponents were Azarenka and Australian Ashleigh Barty.
Photos, from top: ©Belga, ©Pete Staples/USTA