Kenin grinds into quarters
Top seed Sofia Kenin was forced to dig deep to reach the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open quarter-finals on Sunday after edging past 13th seed Yulia Putintseva 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Kenin, the world No 4 and reigning Australian Open champion, struggled to find her rhythm for much of the match and soon found herself a break down at 4-2 in the first set. Putintseva stayed solid on serve to take the one-set advantage.
Kenin then looked to have taken control midway through the second set when she broke for a 3-1 lead and gave herself the chance to level when serving at 5-4. However, she lost her next two service games as Putintseva served for the match at 6-5.
After seeing off a match point, Kenin broke to make it 6-6 and following a tense tie-break, the American levelled with a superb backhand winner down the line.
When Kenin broke in the first game of the decider, it looked as though the American had seized the initiative but Putintseva was immediately back on terms.
Kenin then moved into a 5-2 lead but Putintseva kept coming at her and broke to reduce the deficit. The Kazakh even had break point when Kenin served for the match but the 22-year-old top seed managed to get over the line.
Kenin will play Greek ninth seed Marria Sakkari in the quarter-finals.
Sakkari sends Muguruza out
Garbine Muguruza was made to rue her inability to convert break points as Maria Sakkari reached the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open quarter-finals with a 7-5, 6-4 win on Centre Court.
Muguruza, seeded fifth, squandered 11 of 12 break point chances during a close contest that lasted eight minutes shy of two hours. Some of those misses were of her own doing, but most were down to bold clutch play from the Greek ninth seed.
Sakkari earned the first break of the match to lead 4-3 and the world No 22 had five chances to claim a second that would have won her the set 6-4. Instead, Muguruza held firm and broke back the next game to level at 5-5.
Parity would only last the game, though, as Sakkari broken once again before serving out the opening set.
The second set comprised just one break of serve, in the seventh game, although Muguruza had five chances to break in the fourth game and another three when Sakkari was serving for the match.
Sakkari soaked up the pressure, though, to deliver victory with an ace down the middle. She will face either top seed Sofia Kenin or 13th seed Yulia Putintseva in the quarter-finals.
Sakkari: "I was in trouble a lot in the match in terms of facing break points but I came up with some good serves when I needed them. Overall, I'm starting to feel how I want to feel during the season and during the games, so I'm feeling good.
"Even though it’s still only the first tournament, I’m super happy that I can play this way because other years I was struggling in the first couple of weeks."
Rybakina powers past Kasatkina
Elena Rybakina overcame stubborn resistance from Daria Kasatkina to book her place in the quarter-finals of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open.
Sixth seed Rybakina looked to be cruising into the last eight after the first set but was forced to raise her level in the second to claim a 6-3, 6-4 victory in one hour and eight minutes.
The world No 19 was imperious on serve in the first set and never looked troubled after she moved into a 3-0 lead, her power and aggression proving too much to handle for Kasatkina.
After breaking twice in the second set for another 3-0 lead, it looked at that stage Rybakina would race into the quarter-finals, but Kasatkina claimed one of the breaks back to stay in touching distance.
However, Rybakina regained control on her service games and never gave the former world No 10 another glimpse, eventually sealing the win with a booming forehand winner - her 23rd of the match.
Rybakina will face fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka for a place in the semi-finals.
Rybakina: "I played well today and I was focused because I knew it wasn't going to be an easy match. I served pretty good today. My concentration dropped for a few games but overall it was a good match.
Rybakina on her level: "It's getting better and better. It's not the best yet but every match I'm going to improve. The matches here for good for me. Yesterday I played an aggressive player and today I played a player with a different style. I just want to improve in every match and hopefully soon I'll be playing my best tennis."
Sorribes Tormo ends Gasanova's dream run
Sara Sorribes Tormo moved into the quarter-finals of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Open with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova.
Gasanova, 21, delivered the biggest win of her career on Saturday when she defeated third seed Karolina Pliskova, but was unable to repeat the trick against Sorribes Tormo.
After both players claimed two breaks apiece, the Spanish world No 66 claimed the all-important in the 12th game to win the first set.
Gasanova responded by taking a 2-0 lead in the second set but the world No 292 lost her way on serve and was broken three times in a row to allow Sorribes Tormo the chance to serve out the match.
Sorribes Tormo, 24, takes on Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk in the quarter-finals.
Sabalenka downs Jabeur
Aryna Sabalenka extended her winning streak to 12 matches on Sunday after defeating Ons Jabeur in the third round of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open.
The fourth seed stayed aggressive throughout the match to take a 6-2, 6-4 victory in one hour and four minutes.
Sabalenka, 22, dominated the first set, breaking in the fourth and eighth games to seal the opener in just 28 minutes.
However, it was Jabeur who started brighter in the second set as the Tunisian 15th seed broke in the first game to love. Sabalenka immediately responded with a break back, but Jabeur again edged out in front in the fifth game, and after holding, held a 4-2 lead.
At that point, though, Sabalenka started to apply more pressure and her powerful groundstrokes on the fast Centre Court started to unsettle Jabeur, who lost the next four games. The Belarusian clinched the match when Jabeur sent a crosscourt forehand wide.
Sabalenka will face either sixth seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals.
In the first match over on Court 1, Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk thrashed Slovenian world No 87 Tamara Zidansek 6-1, 6-1 in just 53 minutes to reach the last eight.
The Ukrainian world No 99 will take on either Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova or Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo for a place in the semi-finals.
Sabalenka: "I didn't give her any time to play, to make her trick shots, and that's why I think she was uncomfortable on the court. This was the key for today's win."
Sabalenka on her win streak: "What happened in the past, happened in the past. Tomorrow is a new day and I will do everything I can to win another one. I'm not afraid of losing, that's part of our job, but if I can keep winning I will do everything I can to keep winning.
"It’s always difficult to win matches. You just have to prepare yourself really well and stay focused all the time. But I like it, I like to face new challenges."
Sunday's order of play
Starting at 10am:
Aryna Sabalenka (4) bt Ons Jabeur (15) - 6-2, 6-4
Elena Rybakina (6) bt Daria Kasatkina - 6-3, 6-4
Maria Sakkari (9) bt Garbine Muguruza (5) - 7-5, 6-4
Sofia Kenin (1) bt Yulia Putintseva - 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
Ekaterina Alexandrova v Elina Svitolina (2)
Starting at 10am:
Marta Kostyuk bt Tamara Zidansek - 6-1, 6-1
Sara Sorribes Tormo bt Anastasia Gasanova - 7-5, 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova bt Paula Badosa - 6-4, 4-6, 6-1