Saturday match recap
Semifinals day was a fantastic ticket, with three of the four singles matches going the distance, and two upsets in the men’s doubles. Plus, the first of the four Western & Southern Open trophies was awarded as Alycia Parks and Taylor Townsend won the women’s doubles title.
In the first women’s semifinal, Coco Gauff triumphed over world No. 1 Iga Swiatek for the first time in eight tries. She did it behind a powerful serve that often clocked in at more than 120 mph and her tremendous fight on big points. She saved two set points in the first set and went on to win it in a tiebreak. Swiatek took command in the second set to send the match to a decider. Gauff broke to lead 4-3 in the third set and fought off a break point to hold for a 5-3 lead. After Swiatek held, she saved two match points before Gauff sealed the victory to the full stadium’s delight.
“Cincinnati did not disappoint,” she said later, referencing the crowd support. She was the second player this week to reference Venus Williams’ come-from-behind victory in the first round as inspiration to keep fighting. Gauff, 19, is the first teen to make the women’s final here in 19 years and would be the first to win it in the tournament’s professional era that dates back to 1969.
The nearly three-hour match was followed by the second women’s semifinal featuring world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka against unseeded Karolina Muchova. The last time they played, Muchova came back from down 1-5 in the final set to defeat Sabalenka for a spot in the French Open final in June. Saturday’s match went much the same, as Sabalenka raced to a 4-1 lead but Muchova came back to lead 5-4. However, she couldn’t serve it out and Sabalenka took a 6-5 lead with three set points. Muchova saved those to force a tiebreak, but Sabalenka finally closed out the set. The players were even at 3-3 in the second set when Muchova’s all-court game clicked in and she raced to take nine of the next 11 games. By reaching the final, Muchova will make her debut in the world’s Top 10.
The day session crowd was treated to yet another great match as world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz escaped with his fourth straight three-set win. This time, it really was an escape as he was down a match point to unseeded Hubert Hurkacz at 6-2, 5-4. He saved that, won the set in a tiebreak and broke Hurkacz early in the third set to win it 6-3 to become the youngest men’s finalist here at age 20 since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1991.
“It’s crazy the support that I receive from the crowd here in Cincinnati,” Alcaraz said after the match. “I always said that is necessary to have this support to have comebacks like I did today. Probably I get the win thanks to them, as well.”
The night match featured No. 2 Novak Djokovic, a two-time Western & Southern Open champion, and 2021 winner Alexander Zverev. Injury kept Zverev out of the tournament last year, so he came into this semifinal on a nine-match winning streak in Cincinnati. But he was facing an opponent who was playing in a record ninth Western & Southern Open semifinal. Zverev saved five set points in the first set but Djokovic held on to win the tiebreak and was up 5-3 in the second set when Zverev rallied, tying the score at 5-all. However Djokovic broke right back and served out the win to reach a record-tying eighth final.
In the men’s doubles semifinals, two unseeded teams upset seeds to reach Sunday’s final. Jamie Murray, who won the title here in 2018, and partner Michael Venus, who was runner-up here last year, are aiming for their fourth title of the year and first at the ATP Masters 1000 level. They defeated sixth seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 6-3. They will face the Argentine team of Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni. They won a thriller over second seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, saving two match points to win a match tiebreak 15-13. Gonzalez and Molteni have won four titles together this year and are playing in the biggest final of their careers, while Murray and Venus are both Grand Slam champions.
In the nightcap of an amazing day of tennis, Alycia Parks & Taylor Townsend became the first Western & Southern Open champions of 2023 after they defeated Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez 6-7(1), 6-4 [10-6] to win the women’s doubles title. This is their first team title, and it gives Parks her second career title and Townsend a fourth. Melichar-Martinez & Perez were playing the final for the second year in a row.