Aryna Sabalenka sweeps aside Jelena Ostapenko to reach Italian Open semis

Aryna Sabalenka sweeps aside Jelena Ostapenko to reach Italian Open semis

Aryna Sabalenka had little trouble in defeating Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Italian Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

Sabalenka, the world No 2, has never won the Italian Open but she had the majority of the support on Centre Court, where the crowd rose to congratulate the Belarusian’s triumph over the No 9 seed, which took little over an hour to complete.

“With this amazing atmosphere, this amazing support, that’s why I’m super-motivated here,” Sabalenka said. “This is the dream tournament for me to win because of these emotions I’m getting from you guys and hopefully I give it back to you, I love you Rome.”

Ostapenko managed to save two break points in the opening game, but Sabalenka broke at the next two opportunities to lead 4-1, and although the Latvian held her next service game to love, she was unable to halt Sabalenka’s march.

She needed only one break of serve, making it 4-3, to take the second set and the victory, with Ostapenko unable to force a single break point over the course of the match.

Sabalenka will face Danielle Collins in the last four on Thursday after the American No 13 seed stopped the prospect of an all-Belarusian semi-final, swatting aside 24th seed Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3.

Sabalenka beat Collins in three sets in the fourth round at the Mutua Madrid Open on 29 April. It was a rare defeat for Collins on the season, who has won 19 of her past 20 matches, earning titles at the Miami Open and the Charleston Open. Earlier this year, Collins announced this would be her final season on tour.

Thursday’s other semi-final pits the world No 1, Iga Swiatek of Poland, against the third-seeded American, Coco Gauff.

Andy Murray celebrated his 37th birthday with victory on his comeback from injury in Bordeaux after his opponent retired in the second set. The Scot was leading Kyrian Jacquet 7-5, 2-0 when the French world No 219 was forced to pull out.

Murray was playing his first match since damaging tendons in his left ankle at the Miami Open in March, which put his participation at the French Open and even Wimbledon in doubt in what is likely to be his final season. But Murray recovered quicker than expected and returned to action at the Challenger event to get some clay-court matches under his belt before Roland Garros.

The three-time grand slam winner showed no visible discomfort as he secured his first win on clay in more than a year, albeit faster than he might have liked.

The British No 2, Dan Evans, also competing in Bordeaux in an attempt to find some form after a tough few months, beat the Frenchman Hugo Grenier 6-4, 6-4.