Wednesday, January 20, 2021

WTA Abu Dhabi: Aryna Sabalenka fights past Elena Rybakina to reach semifinals

Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka continues her impressive start to the 2021 WTA Tour season with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over sixth seed Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Open.

Sabalenka hit 30 winners, withstanding 24 winners and 12 aces from Rybakina as she took the first set behind a late break. The Kazakh rebounded to claim the second set before the Belarussian took the decider behind more strong serving.

Sabalenka outlasts Rybakina for 13th consecutive match victory

There was little to separate the two as they displayed clean, powerful tennis and they split the first six games, three apiece holds with little difficulty for either player.

Sabalenka came through the first tough service game of the match as she was pushed to deuce twice before prevailing to take a 4-3 lead. Serving to stay in the set at 5-4, Rybakina was broken to love, sending a forehand wide on set point.

Sabalenka in action against Rybakina in the Abu Dhabi quarterfinals/Photo: Francoise Nel/Getty Images
Sabalenka in action against Rybakina in the Abu Dhabi quarterfinals/Photo: Francoise Nel/Getty Images

Rybakina rebounded and broke to start the second set after the Belarussian missed on a forehand. She extended her advantage with a second break to go in front 4-1.

Sabalenka closed the gap with a hold and break, but she was unable to make up the deficit and serving for the set, the sixth seed levelled the match on her third chance after the fourth seed hit a wayward forehand.

The second game of the third set proved to be the difference as Sabalenka broke on her fourth chance with a forehand slice volley. With a break in hand, she was untroubled on serve the rest of the match and on her third match point, an ace sealed the victory.

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