Aryna Sabalenka, the second-ranked player in the world, was unexpectedly defeated in straight sets by Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, who recorded the biggest victory of her career to advance to the Miami Open semifinals.
32-year-old Cirstea defeated the Australian Open winner 6-4, 6-4 to earn her first victory over a player rated among the top three in the world.
For the first time in over ten years, Cirstea will compete in a WTA 1000 event’s last four, where she will face either Petra Kvitova or Ekaterina Alexandrova. She remarked, “I’m a little shocked over what I’ve achieved.”
The world number 74 continued in her on-court interview: “I came out thinking it would be a pretty tough match. I knew I had to stand my ground since Aryna hits so hard. I’m pleased with how I performed today. To be honest, it comes as a bit of a surprise.”
Cirstea is the only unseeded player in the women’s draw to reach the final eight and has won five straight matches in Miami and has knocked off Caroline Garcia, the fourth-ranked player in the world, during this run.
After falling short of world number one Iga Swiatek in her maiden Indian Wells quarterfinal earlier this month, she displayed remarkable form at the Sunshine Double.
Cirstea, who lost to Serena Williams in the 2013 Toronto final, advanced to her second WTA 1000 semifinal with her most recent statement victory.
After Cirstea broke serve in the first game of both sets, 24-year-old Sabalenka answered. The Belarusian’s opponent, though, was able to regroup on both times and hold off two break opportunities as Cirstea served for the match, handing Sabalenka her third loss in as many matches this year.
A new women’s champion will be crowned in Miami when world number three Jessica Pegula of the United States takes on Wimbledon winner and seventh-ranked Elena Rybakina of Russia.
Cirstea is the only player to have won more WTA 1000 main-draw games in 2023 than the Kazakh Rybakina (12). The Romanian is the only participant in the Sunshine Double to win as many as nine games in a single season while being rated outside the top 50.