YORKTON, Sask. — Alina Kovaleva reached the semifinals in a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event for the first time at the Meridian Canadian Open.
Kovaleva and her Russian squad advanced with a 9-7 victory over Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones during the women’s quarterfinals Saturday at the Gallagher Centre.
Team Kovaleva will now take on Team Min Ji Kim after the club from South Korea edged top-seed Team Kerri Einarson of East St. Paul, Man., 5-4 in an extra end. Kim captured the Tier 2 title at the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge to earn a promotion here into the elite ranks.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg brushed aside Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni 7-3 and Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa fended off Team Nina Roth of the United States 6-5 on the other side of the bracket.
Team Hasselborg is seeking a record-tying third consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title following back-to-back wins at the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge and BOOST National to close out 2019. Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan set the record in the women’s division by winning three in a row in 2015 and matched their own mark with another trio of trophies last season.
It was a solid first half for Kovaleva, who covered the pinhole in the draw-to-the-button shootout and converted in the first for a deuce. After trading singles, Jones was building something big in four until Kovaleva made a crucial draw to freeze out the pile and followed that up with a hit to sit two. The nine-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling champion Jones was unable to remove either counter to fall behind 5-1 as her shooter grazed the shot rock and gave up the double steal.
A dramatic change of events occurred in the fifth with the big end returning for Jones. Kovaleva was curling perfectly until she jammed a double attempt and gifted Jones an open draw anywhere in the house to score four points and tie it up.
Kovaleva made a clutch draw for a single in six and Jones took a 7-6 lead hitting for a deuce in seven. It was a bit of letdown, however, as Jones had four stones sitting around the house and took out two of them in the collision plus her shooter slid away.
That gave Kovaleva the hammer for the decisive end, but she didn’t need to throw the last rock of the game with three stones already in the house and Jones’s final stone rolling heavy.
The men’s semifinals feature Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., vs. Winnipeg’s Team Mike McEwen and Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., vs. Toronto’s Team John Epping. Jacobs doubled up on Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., 8-4 earlier Saturday in the quarterfinals while McEwen topped Team Korey Dropkin of the United States 6-2, Gushue swept away Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller 6-1 and Epping ousted Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat 8-3.
NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fourth event and third major of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … At stake is a $300,000 total purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, with the winners earning $35,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Also up for grabs are points towards the Pinty’s Cup, which is the season title awarded following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship in April.