June 14, 2024

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka advanced to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix quarterfinals on Wednesday, moving past an injured Paula Badosa 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-3 ret. after Badosa retired from their match due to a left thigh injury.

Sabalenka was down a break at 3-1 in the third set, but she used solid returns to claw back on serve at 3-3 against Badosa, who had previously taken a medical time-out near the end of the second set. After that, Badosa only played one more point before stopping play.

“I think it’s very important in this competitive atmosphere to have a friend,” Sabalenka said about her good friend Badosa, after the injury stoppage. “I love this girl, and I feel so bad, [she’s] not feeling her best and I literally was about to cry.

“I feel for her and I really hope that she’s gonna recover as soon as possible, and that she’ll be ready for Madrid. Once again, I’m really grateful to have such a friend like Paula.”

We meet again: This was the third straight year Sabalenka and Badosa had faced off in Stuttgart, and Sabalenka has prevailed each time they have met on the indoor red clay of Germany.

After losing to Badosa in their first two meetings back in 2021, Sabalenka started to turn around their rivalry in Stuttgart two years ago, when she notched her first win over Badosa in the 2022 semifinals.

Sabalenka and Badosa faced off for the next time one year later, when they met in the Stuttgart quarterfinals. Once again, Sabalenka pulled out a tight victory to level their head-to-head.

This time around, the match had an unfortunate conclusion, but the result remained the same, with Sabalenka advancing over the ailing Badosa after 2 hours and 21 minutes.

“I would say that the first set was a great level for me,” Sabalenka said. “I think I played my best, I fought for it, and I got that first set. In the second set, [Badosa was] just playing unbelievable level, I guess she was just going for it.

“Third set, I don’t know. I have a really strong connection to the girl, and I just couldn’t play. I was just all over the place, and I’m happy that I was able to break her back [at 3-2], but I’m not happy to win this match this way. I don’t know, it’s tough.”

Adding her Miami Open victory over Badosa last month, Sabalenka now leads their head-to-head 4-2, with wins over Badosa in their last four meetings.

Looking ahead: Sabalenka remains on course for a specific Stuttgart four-peat — she is aiming for her fourth straight Porsche Tennis Grand Prix singles final.

Sabalenka has yet to win the event, finishing runner-up to the World No.1 each time — Ashleigh Barty in 2021, and Iga Swiatek the last two years.

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