US Open: Sabalenka ready for Pliskova challenge in quarter-final after losing both matchups in 2021

·2-min read

Aryna Sabalenka believes she is ready for the challenge of Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals after losing both of their meetings in 2021, saying she knows what to expect this time around.

Sabalenka defeated Danielle Collins 3-6 6-3 6-2 on Monday, with the world number six coming from a set behind to collect her seventh win from her past eight matches.

With Pliskova getting the better of Sabalenka's Belarusian compatriot Victoria Azarenka 7-5 6-7 (5-7) 6-2, it sets up the fifth career meeting between the pair, with their head-to-head record split at two wins apiece.

Sabalenka won both meetings in 2018, but after years without a match against each other, Pliskova flipped the script in 2021 with wins in Montreal and at Wimbledon.

Speaking to the media after her fourth round win, Sabalenka said she was caught by surprise at how much Pliskova had improved in the years between their matches, and how that will not be the case this time around.

"To be honest, on those matches, the first matches I won against her, I was an upcoming player," she said. "I was lower in the ranking, I was respecting every top player. I was kind of expecting a great level from them.

"Then, in the last two matches last year, I was in the top. Every time she was making me move, every time she was making winners, I was like, what's going on? How is it possible? Oh, my God, she is making winners.

"I want to say that I wasn't kind of really respecting her. Right now I really expect great level from her.

"It's going to be tough. Every time she will make some winners, it's not going to be pissing me off, it's going to be like, okay, it's normal, she's making it, what next?"

Meanwhile, Pliskova believes she is playing her best tennis of the season at the moment after advancing to the quarter-finals for the second straight year, having lost to Maria Sakkari at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

She told the media after defeating Azarenka that it may have been her best performance of the year – and maybe even longer.

"I think this was one of the best matches this year, from my side," she said. "I think also from her. I thought the level of the tennis was quite good for all three sets.

"Maybe in the third set, maybe she started to drop it a little bit. Of course, it was understandable because physically it was also quite tough. We had long rallies, long points, long games.

"But quite happy with my level. I think I'm playing quite good tennis now, maybe even better than last year here."