Maria Sakkari Upsets Top Seed Kenin, Faces In-Form Sabalenka Next In Abu Dhabi - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari Upsets Top Seed Kenin, Faces In-Form Sabalenka Next In Abu Dhabi

After knocking out the top seed, the world No.22 looks ahead to her semi-final clash.

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Maria Sakkari staged an emphatic comeback against Sofia Kenin to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Open on Monday.

 

The ninth seed struggled early on against the Australian Open champion after dropping the opening set before saving a trio of break points at the start of the second. However, a clinical fightback from the Greek saw her win 10 consecutive games to stun Kenin 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, in what was a roller coaster match. It is only the fifth time in her career that Sakkari has defeated a top five player on the Tour.

“I think I was rushing a little bit too much in the beginning,” Sakkari said afterwards. “Once I saw that what I was doing was not working I tried a different way. I’m glad I found a way to turn the match around.”

Overwhelming Kenin with 23 winners compared to her tally of eight, Sakkari also converted six out of 13 break point opportunities and won 63% of her service points. In the final set alone, she dropped only two points behind her serve. The victory is a case of sweet revenge for the world No.22 who lost to Kenin in both of their previous meetings during 2018.

It is the second time in the tournament Sakkari has defeated a Grand Slam winner after also getting the better of Gabine Muguruza in the third round. She has also scored wins over rising star Coco Gauff and Russia’s Anastasia Potapova.

The reward for the 25-year-old is a last four clash with Aryna Sabalenka, who has won her two previous tournaments and is on a 13-match winning streak. Sabalenka endured a much tougher quarter-final encounter after battling to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win over Elena Rybakina. The two-hour battle saw the fourth seed hit 30 winners to 37 unforced errors as she broke the Rybakina once in each set.

“In the beginning of the second set I think I dropped my level a bit,” Sabalenka reflected. “But I think after 1-4 it was really good that I kept trying to come back and kept trying to find my game again, because it really helped me the rest of the match. It definitely helped me to win the third set.”

Heading into the clash, Sakkari will be the likely underdog. Not only is she ranked 12 places lower than Sabalenka in the rankings, her only win over the Belarusian occurred when they first met at the 2019 Cincinnati Open. Since then Sabalenka has beaten her three times in a row on a hard court.

We know each other really well. We practice a lot together,” Sakkari said. “She’s one of the toughest players to play out there—I’ve beaten her once, so I think I can do it again, but it’s going to be tough.
“She’s very powerful, and she’s super confident right now.”

Sakkari is chasing after her second WTA title this week in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Sabalenka is targeting her ninth.

*Note – quotes obtained via tennis.com

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Lorenzo Sonego continues his winning streak with a victory over Barnabe Zapata Miralles in Sofia

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Lorenzo Sonego beat Barnabe Zapata Miralles 6-3 6-4 after 1 hour and 19 minutes to reach the second round at the Sofia Open. Sonego won 86% of his first serve points. 

 

Sonego broke serve in the second game at 30, but he missed a double break point in the third game. The Italian player dropped just three points in his next three service games to close out the first set 6-3.  

Sonego broke serve in the ninth game at love, as Zapata Miralles made a double fault. He made a double fault and a forehand error at 5-4, but he won four consecutive points to close out the second set on his first match point. 

Last week Sonego won his title in Metz without dropping a set. 

Sonego will face Danish Next Gen player Holger Rune in the second round. 

“I am really happy because today I was really aggressive on court. I played so well. I did my best thing today. I am really happy for that. Zapata is a big wall. He served really well, but I started so good today, with good variation. The key was my performance on serve, and to be aggressive on serve”, said Sonego. 

Lorenzo Musetti battled past Alexander Lazarov 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 after 2 hours and 42 minutes. 

The first set went on serve with no break points. Lazarov earned his mini-break at 4-2 to win the tie-break 7-5. Musetti saved two break points at 4-4. The Italian player wasted a set point at 5-4 on Lazarov’s serve and dropped his serve in the next game. Lazarov earned his chance to close out the match at 6-5, but he was broken at 30. Musetti went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Lazarov  won four consecutive points to take a 5-4 lead. Lazarov had the chance to close the match, but he dropped two points on serve.  Musetti sealed the tie-break on his fourth set point. 

Musetti earned two breaks and held his next service games to win the third set 6-2. 

Ilya Ivashka upset Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 7-6 (7-3) after 1 hour and 52 minutes to reach the quarter finals. Ivashka saved all seven break points he faced. Dimitrov saved two match points in the second set forcing the match to the tie-break. Ivashka earned two mini-breaks to take a 7-3 lead. 

Ivashka will face either Sonego or Rune in the quarter final. 

“It was a very tough match and I am very happy that I got the victory at the end. It is very hard to play against Grigor, especially at his home”, said Ivashka.  

Fernando Vedasco edged past Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 to set up a second round match against Alexander Vukic. 

Jan Lennard Struff came back from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic 4-6 6-3 6-2. 

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv

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Botic Van de Zandschulp cruised past Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. Van de Zandschulp won 83% of his first serve points and hit 28 winners to Sousa’s six. 

 

The Dutchman will face Liam Broady, who Serbian wild-card Hamad Medjedovic 7-5 6-3. 

Tomas Martin Etchevery edged past 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev 6-2 6-7 (0-7) 6-4  scoring the biggest win of his career. 

Arthur Rinderknech came back from one set down to beat Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3. Rinderknech set up a second round against third seed Diego Schwartzman. 

Emil Ruusuvuori broke serve five times in his 6-3 6-2 win over J.J Wolf. 

Sebastian Korda beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 6-4 6-4 setting up a second round match against Maxime Cressy. Novak Djokovic is the top seed of the Tel Aviv tournament, which returns for the first time since 2021.

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