NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - No.7 seed Anna Blinkova delivered a clean and ruthless performance to upset No.2 seed Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 12 minutes to move into the Oracle Challenger Series New Haven semifinals.
The 20-year-old Russian, fresh off stretching World No.1 Naomi Osaka to three sets in the first round of the US Open, emerged from an opening three-break sequence in which both players sought to find their range with a 2-1 lead - and motored smoothly from there, conceding only two more games through the rest of the match.
Blinkova consistently outmanoeuvred Brady from the baseline, soaking up the American's power and repeatedly finding space down the line into which she could redirect winners or open up the court. By contrast, although Brady found occasional joy by coming forward to put volleys away, the 24-year-old's serve misfired throughout. Usually a cornerstone of Brady's game, the Nottingham semifinalist offered up seven double faults and an inadequate 54% first serve percentage today.
Consequently, Blinkova feasted on Brady's service games, breaking thrice in each set and, as the match drew to a close, repeatedly punishing the World No.67's second serve with pinpoint return winners - including one on her first match point.
In the semifinals, Blinkova will face No.3 seed Lauren Davis after the American held off No.5 seed Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-4. The match featured nine breaks of serve, but Davis always led in each set and managed to resist the Frenchwoman's fightbacks at the business end of both.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Usue Maitane Arconada continued her stellar year with a 6-4, 6-4 upset of Australian No.9 seed Astra Sharma. The unseeded American has compiled a 43-12 win-loss record in 2019 so far, including three ITF titles in Bethany Beach, Denver and Honolulu, and has risen from World No.345 at the end of 2018 to her current World No.179. In a tight contest, Arconada captured the only break of the first set in its final game, and recovered an early break in the second set to win the last four games of the match, showcasing superb defence and smart net play along the way.
Arconada will meet No.11 seed Heather Watson in the last four after the Briton overcame the unseeded American Danielle Lao 7-6(4), 6-4 in the tightest quarterfinal. A marathon one-hour, 33-minute opening set saw six breaks and eight deuce games: in a sequence of knife-edge tussles, Lao built a 5-3 lead but was incrementally pegged back as Watson saved three set points - with the World No.174 particularly having cause to regret conceding serve with consecutive double faults for 5-5.
Serving down 5-6, it was Lao's turn to dig her heels in, saving two set points of her own with forehand winners - but Watson dominated the tiebreak to eke out the opening act.
In a vastly contrasting second set, both players were secure through a sequence of largely untroubled holds until World No.101 Watson nailed a forehand down the line to bring up break point in the ninth game, duly converted as Lao sent a forehand long. The 27-year-old served out victory with little trouble, continuing a North American hardcourt mini-revival that also saw her lift the Vancouver ITF W100 trophy just prior to the US Open.