World No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka pieced together another come-from-behind victory to move on to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.
Taking on Danielle Collins, who was competing in the second week of the tournament for the first time in her career, Sabalenka bounced back from a tough opening set to emerge with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the 19th-seeded American at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
Sabalenka will now face Karolina Pliskova, who is known as the Ace Queen, in her second career quarterfinal appearance on Wednesday. The 30-year-old Pliskova survived a three-hour match earlier in the day against fellow former World No. 1, Victoria Azarenka, to tee up the match.
“Somehow I came back in the second set,” Sabalenka said. “I was like, ‘Keep trying,’ keep pushing myself to keep trying and keep fighting. I think I did well.
“I’m just super happy with the win, first of all, and with the level today.”
Similar to her second-round matchup with Kaia Kanepi, Sabalenka didn’t put up much of a fight in the first set. Collins played a tighter and smarter game at first, jumping out to a 4-1 lead before ultimately securing the set in just over 40 minutes. While both players committed eight unforced errors each, Sabalenka’s over-aggressiveness got the best of her occasionally and opened the door for Collins to exploit it.
However, Sabalenka channeled her strength more effectively in the middle set — especially after botching what should’ve been a guaranteed opening point in the second game, which she eventually dropped partially due to two blistering aces from Collins. Sabalenka hit into the sidelines, dropped her racket and palmed her face in frustration.
With her game more under control after that, Sabalenka pulled ahead 3-1 and despite Collins playing her way back into it, the 24-year-old took the following three games. Sabalenka cited the 4-3 game as a pivotal moment for her in the match, citing how she held her serve through a 22-point battle.
“I would say it was the key game,” she said. “I hold my serve. After that I felt like, ‘Okay, if I hold my serve right now, I still have chances in this match.’ I think this kind of mentality helped me to break her in the second game, then win the set.
“I would say in the third set, pressure was more on her than on me. Yeah, but it was definitely the key game. That game gave me much more belief that I can win this match.”
Collins, who hadn’t lost a set in this tournament until Monday night, was struggling a bit on her serve at that point. She double-faulted six times in the second set on the way to 11 for the match.
Sabalenka also changed her racket and needed a medical timeout in the middle of the second set, which had a positive effect as she secured the second set with an ace.
“I just felt that the racket was super loose,” she said in her on-court interview.
It was the second spirited comeback of the Open for Sabalenka. The 2021 semifinalist saved two match points and battled back from down a set and a 5-1 deficit to win 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 over Kanepi last Thursday. Since then, Sabalenka has had a freer way about her that could serve her well as she continues on.