Sabalenka overcomes Ostapenko, Swiatek cruises into quarter-finals


Aryna Sabalenka hits a return shot against Lauren Davis during their Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship match. Agence France-Presse

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

Stretching her winning streak, Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka recovered from a set down and staged a brilliant rally to beat defending champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The World No.2 from Belarus took one hour and 41 minutes to battle past the Latvian 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 for her 13th consecutive victory, following triumphs at Adelaide and the Australian Open, where she lifted her first Grand Slam singles trophy.

Making a perfect start, Ostapenko won the first set, taking advantage of three break points.

Stepping up the game, second seed Sabalenka stopped Ostapenko in her tracks and forced the decider after hitting with just two unforced errors in the second set.

Story remained the same in the third as the Belarusian didn’t give any room to her rival and won the decider without losing the serve.

“First set, she played unbelievable tennis. I couldn’t do anything,” Sabalenka said during an on-court interview.

“I was looking at my team and asking like, ‘What can I do?’ Somehow I turned around this game and started playing really incredible tennis. Just super happy with the win.

“She plays really fast, deep balls, and I tried to stay super low, stay focused, and try to put more balls [in] than she did. I’m so happy that I did it.”

Continuing her domination, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek dismantled Liudmila Samsonova 6-1, 6-0 to reach the last eight of the tournament.

Swiatek dropped only a single game to register another emphatic victory in 76 minutes.

 “The match was challenging. Liudmila (Samsonova) has a powerful game and serve so I was very happy I managed to return well and keep the pace. The level was much closer than the result shows. I felt good, I felt that my game was there and my plan was working so that was a good day,” said the top seed.

Earlier, Karolina Muchova put the brakes on No.8 seed and 2019 Dubai champion Belinda Bencic’s seven-match winning streak.

The Czech took one hour and 25 minutes to beat her Swiss rival 6-1, 6-4. Bencic, who won the inaugural edition of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open earlier this month and reached the Qatar Open semis last week, failed to replicate her form against the World No.112.

Muchova will now face third seed Jessica Pegula, who defeated Ana Bogdan at the Centre Court. Bogdan broke the world No. 3 in the second game of the opening set and established a 3-1 lead.

Pegula, a finalist in Doha last week, shifted gears to win five of the next six games to grab the first set.

The American raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set and later wrapped up the match with ease.

“She was playing really well and has played a lot of matches on these courts and in these conditions. She came out really intense so I really had to raise my level. I’m just glad I was able to come back in that first set and keep my focus,” said Pegula.

The 2015 finalist Karolina Pliskova advanced to the quarter-finals following a 7-5, 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 defeat of Anhelina Kalinina.

The Czech made it to the last eight of the competition for the fifth time and first since 2020.

Pliskova has not reached the semi-finals in Dubai since finishing runner-up to Simona Halep in 2015.

Swiatek was due to face Pliskova in the final eight, but the former No.1 pulled out with a viral illness.

Two-time Australian Open champion and 15th seed Victoria Azarenka made her exit after losing to Madison Keys.

Keys beat Azarenka 6-2, 6-1 in just 57 minutes. Azarenka appeared to be struggling for movement with a leg injury.

“(Azarenka) obviously wasn’t feeling her best, but I guess I get to play another match. I’ll take what I did today and do it again tomorrow,” said the US Open finalist.

 “In a situation like today all you can do is focus on your own game and play your shots,” she added.”

Keys will next face Coco Gauff, who advanced after Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina withdrew due to a lower back injury.


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