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Garbiñe Muguruza continued her pre-Wimbledon momentum with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Elena Rybakina at the inaugural Bett1 Open.

“It’s a very beautiful day, but for tennis it’s tough, and for the crowd it can be tough as well, so thank you all for coming and staying the whole day watching us," Muguruza said in her on-court interview.

The former world No. 1 shook off an opening round Roland Garros loss with a winning return to grass-court action on Tuesday, and is yet to drop a set in Berlin as she braved both the heat and an impressive challenge from Rybakina, who upset Serena Williams en route to the last eight in Paris.

“We’ve practiced many times and I’ve watched her; she’s playing great the last couple of years. I knew I had to be very focused on the return and serve, so I managed pretty well.”

Muguruza made a memorable start to the 2021 season, reaching three finals at her first three tournaments and winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships against future French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the final. Looking like a strong favorite to replicate her 2016 victory on the terre battue, the two-time major champion pulled up injured at the Volvo Car Open and struggled to find her best form for the remainder of the clay court season.

“I think we should all fight for every point, but today it was the key. Even if I was down 0-40, I was going to try and hit the ball with my wristband if it was necessary, so I’m very happy with my fighting spirit.”

Looking stronger on the grass, Muguruza was quicker out of the blocks on Thursday as she broke for a 4-2 lead. Though the Kazakh rallied to restore the deficit, the Spaniard continued to press, injecting pace off both sides to move back into the lead and serve out the opening set.

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The second set saw the No. 6-seeded Muguruza break at the same point as the first, and while Rybakina threatened to level in identical fashion, Muguruza held firm through a marathon eighth game, saving four break points to maintain the advantage and put the unseeded 22-year-old on the brink of defeat.

Missing out on a first match point thanks to a booming forehand winner, Muguruza kept calm and engineered a second opportunity with a big backhand of her own, and overpowered Rybakina on one last play to claim victory in one hour and 42 minutes.

Standing between the Spaniard and the semifinals is French rival Alizé Cornet, who edged past No. 3 seed Bianca Andreescu in the previous round. Muguruza and Cornet most recently played at Hopman Cup in 2019, where the former won in straight sets, but have never met before on grass.

Around the Grounds...

Earlier in the day, Victoria Azarenka maintained her mastery of fellow former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 7-5, increasing her head-to-head with the hometown favorite, 10-1.

Azarenka’s only defeat to Kerber came at the 2016 Australian Open, where Kerber went on to win her first major title, and the Belarusian has won their four subsequent matches—three in straight sets.

Seeded No. 7 in Berlin, Azarenka won the final four games of the match to book a quarterfinal meeting Jessica Pegula, who pulled off an incredible fourth straight match win over former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in 2021.

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At the Viking Classic in Birmingham, No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur withstood an onslaught from Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez before ultimately advancing, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3).

“She’s much better than me than I was at that age," Jabeur said of Fernandez. "I had trouble coming from juniors to here. She’s really humble, and you can see how the young generation is coming up in a good shape, so I can see a big future for her.”

Jabeur is fresh off a second straight fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros, but has tended to be less effective on grass, having won just one match at Wimbledon in three main-draw attempts.

The Tunisian superstar will next face former junior Wimbledon champion Anastasia Potapova, who avenged a Mutua Madrid Open qualifying defeat to Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3, 6-3, to reach her first quarterfinal since doing so in Dubai back in March.

Potapova saved a match point in her previous clash with Nina Stojanovic earlier in the week and, having already reached her first grass-court WTA quarterfinal, will next aim to reach her first WTA semifinal since the summer of 2019 against Jabeur, whom she’s never faced in singles.