Sabalenka denies Azarenka’s top 10 return dream at Montreal

Aryna Sabalenka won a battle of Belarus on Friday, denying compatriot Victoria Azarenka the chance to return to the top 10 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory at the WTA Montreal Masters.

Azaranka, a 32-year-old with two Australian Open titles to her credit, last ranked in the elite group five years ago before motherhood.

The quarter-final success for top seed Sabalenka took 82 minutes, with the big-serving winner adding seven aces to her season’s WTA-leading total of 265.

Sabalenka has now won three of four matches with her compatriot, including their last in October 2020 in Ostrava.

Azarenka played Canadian semi-finals in 2010 and 2011. Sabalenka was playing her eighth quarter-final of 2021, putting her in the joint lead in that statistical category with world number one Ashleigh Barty.

“There were a few points that really made a big difference,” Azarenka said. “I had opportunities in the first set.

“But she was playing much stronger in the important moments. I didn’t really quite take my chances. Compared to other players, she’s probably one of the hardest hitting.”

Sabalenka will next meet fourth seed Karolina Pliskova after the Czech defeated Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-0.

Pliskova stopped Sabalenka in their last meeting, a Wimbledon semi-final in July.