Kenin, Sabalenka and Sakkari advance in Abu Dhabi Open
Ninth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece entered the quarterfinals, ousting No.5 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain, 7-5, 6-4
Top seeded Sofia Kenin of the US survived a scare to reach the quarterfinals of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open on Sunday. She saved a match point en route to a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over No.13 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.
Putintseva was one point away from a straight-set victory at 6-3, 6-5, but the World No.4 Kenin turned the match around from that juncture, eventually grinding out a two-and-a-half-hour win.
Kenin has now moved further at a tournament in the Middle East than she ever has before. The American had never advanced beyond the round of 16 in her three previous appearances at tournaments in the region.
Earlier, Aryna Sabalenka defeated Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals.
In their second career meeting, Sabalenka was bidding to avenge her loss to Jabeur at Roland Garros last fall, where the Tunisian prevailed 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-3 in the third round.
Sabalenka and Jabeur fought hard. Jabeur had game point to level to 2-2. Jabeur constructed a perfect point to force a defensive slice forehand from Sabalenka. It was the best chance but the Tunisian went for a flashy, feathered dropshot, which landed in the net.
Having taken Jabeur to deuce, Sabalenka took her chance. She kept the pressure on Jabeur’s serve with big returning and even won a battle of backhand slices, with Jabeur relenting with a slice into the net, giving Sabalenka her first break point of the match. Under pressure, the errors began to mount for Jabeur. She struck a regulation backhand into the net and the early break belonged to the Belarusian.
With the momentum in hand, Sabalenka raced to the finish line. The World No.10 won 8 of the last 10 points of the match to book her spot in the quarterfinals after just 67 minutes.
Ninth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece entered the quarterfinals, ousting No.5 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain, 7-5, 6-4.
The Greek earned her 17th career win over a Top 20 opponent with her one-hour and 51-minute victory over 15th-ranked Muguruza. She has slid into the final eight of the season-opening event without having dropped a set in her three victories. Sakkari fired 33 winners, including 11 aces, and converting three of her nine break points. By contrast, former World No.1 Muguruza could muster up just five winners in the match, and had only ten fewer unforced errors than Sakkari.
Sakkari suffered early, staring down two break points at 2-1 after two double faults, but the Greek powered her way back to game point with three consecutive winners, and held on for 2-2. After saving two more break points to consolidate for 5-3, Sakkari held five set points in the lengthy next game. It was here where the championship experience of Muguruza made a difference, as the Spaniard stayed steely and fended off the entirety of the quintet with patience and grit.
With inputs from WTA
S Kenin (US x1) bt Y Putintseva (KAZ x13) 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
M Sakkari (GRE x9) bt G Muguruza (ESP x5) 7-5, 6-4
A Sabalenka (BLR x4) bt O Jabeur (TUN x15) 6-2, 6-4
E Rybakina (KAZ x6) bt D Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
M Kostyuk (UKR) bt T Zidansek (SLO) 6-1, 6-1
S Tormo (ESP) bt A Gasanova (RUS) 7-5, 6-3
V Kudermetova (RUS) bt P Badosa (ESP) 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
E Svitolina (UKR x2) bt E Alexandrova (RUS x17) 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (10/8)
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