Dubai: Friday’s four seeds in action scaled through to the third round at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre.
Joining top seed Sofia Kenin was fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka, 13th seed Yulia Putintseva and 15th seed Ons Jabeur to set up all-seeded Round of 16 encounters during Sunday’s play.
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Down by a set, Kenin was a fortunate beneficiary as the American advanced after Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens had to retire at 5-7, 5-4, due to a left ankle injury that occurred during the match, while No.15 seed and the Arab region’s top player Ons Jabeur of Tunisia fought off a one-set deficit to defeat Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Also advancing was No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka as she kept her winning streak going with a smooth 7-5, 6-4 win over Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, while No.13 seed Yulia Putintseva also booked her rightful place with a 6-4, 7-5 win against Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic.
The third meeting between Kenin and the 86th-ranked Flipkens turned out to be an engrossing affair with the Belgian winning a set off of the World No.4 American for the first time in their rivalry. Kenin had moved ahead by a break in the second set and was serving to level the match at one set apiece when Flipkens, a former 2013 Wimbledon semi-finalist, suffered her unfortunate injury.
“It was tough to come out and find momentum especially with the conditions today. She [Flipkens] picked up her game and I just kept on fighting and giving it all. I started playing better as the match progressed, and then the incident took place. Finally, it’s nice to play two matches here and it was better to get the win even though I didn’t want to win like that,” Kenin said.
“When I was playing well I was playing aggressive. It is there and I am playing good tennis and that’s the satisfaction. I have to work on a few things and I will do it heading into the next round,” the American promised.
Kenin will now face No.13 seed Yulia Putintseva after the Kazakh girl eased past Krejcikova in straight sets later in the day.
Meanwhile, Jabeur turned her first meeting against Bondarenko into a winning one as the World No.31 Tunisian shook off some early rust to win in three sets in an hour and 49 minutes against a former top-30 player.
Currently at a career-high ranking, Jabeur struggled with errors in the opening set, but regrouped well with the aid of eleven aces and avoid her first loss to a player ranked outside the top-200, since 2018.
Bondarenko, with daughter Eva watching from the stands, showed signs of her top form which brought her two WTA singles titles and a trip to the 2009 US Open quarter-finals, but she could not break Jabeur as the match progressed.
Jabeur will now face No.4 seed Belarussian Sabalenka, who got the better of Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-4.
“She [Bondarenko] played really well and she bothered me a lot with her fast balls. It was windy and the court was fast and it was helping her. She was enjoying it all. It didn’t help me find my rhythm and I tried not to get so frustrated. I didn’t play my best tennis today, but I am happy with the win all the same. I convinced myself that I had to get the win at whatever cost,” Jabeur said.
“Today was difficult for me as she was making the shots I didn’t like. I needed to keep focused and move on. I played the tennis that I have in me. It was a difficult match, so it’s a relief to come through with two wins so far this season,” she added.
Sabalenka improved her record against her Australian opponent to 3-1 with her win in straight sets coming in exactly 100 minutes. World No.10 Sabalenka has now moved to eleven straight wins on the WTA, with her two victories in Abu Dhabi following up her superb form at the end of last season, where she won back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz.
“I was just trying to stay calm, trying to stay in every point, and make sure I’m fighting for every point,” Sabalenka admitted.
“I’m staying in the moment. What happened in the past happened in the past, and I’m just focusing on every match. I’m just trying to focus on my game, work through everything, to try to do my best against every opponent, that’s it. This kind of mentality helped me to build this confidence,” she relayed.
Advancing to a meeting against the top seed was Kazakh girl Putintseva. A three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist with a career-high singles ranking of world No. 27 [February 2017], the 26-year-old Moscow-born girl was effortless on the quick Friday afternoon conditions to wrap up a smooth win.
Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez was among the big names to bow out following a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Tamara Zidansek, while Veronika Kudermetova showed qualifier Bianca Turati the door with a 6-2, 6-1 result in the other matches.
(Singles) Ons Jabeur bt Kateryna Bondarenko 5-7, 6-3, 6-2; Veronika Kudermetova bt Bianca Turati 6-2, 6-1; Tamara Zidansek bt Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-4; Sofia Kenin bt Kirsten Flipkens 5-7, 5-4 (retd.); Aryna Sabalenka bt Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-4; Yulia Putintseva bt Barbora Krejcikova 6-4, 7-5; Sara Sorribes Tormo bt Bernarda Pera 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Paula Badosa bt Alizé Cornet 6-4, 6-4
(Doubles) Hayley Carter/Luisa Stefani bt Elena Rybakina/Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-3; Jennifer Brady/Garbiñe Muguruza bt Ekaterina Aleandrova/Yana Sizikova 6-3, 6-4; Laura Seigemund/Vera Zvonareva bt Darija Jurak/Makoto Ninomiya7-5, 6-4; Veronika Kudermetova/Anastasia Potapova bt Lucie Hradecka/Renata Voracova 7-5, 6-3; Arantxa Rus/Tamara Zidansek bt Oksana Kalashnikova/Sabrina Santamaria 6-4, 6-1; Karolina Muchova/Marketa Vondrousova vs Kateryna Bondarenko/Nadiia Kichenok 6-3, 6-0; Sofia Kenin/Ajla Tomljanovic bt Maria Sakkari/Donna Vekic 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7).