Back from the brink in Abu Dhabi: Kenin and Svitolina win the hard way

Back from the brink in Abu Dhabi: Kenin and Svitolina win the hard way

The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds each found their backs up against the wall Sunday, as Sofia Kenin saved a match point against Yulia Putintseva before Elina Svitolina erased two of her own versus Ekaterina Alexandrova.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the United States came back from match point down to beat Yulia Putintseva and reach the quarterfinals of the Abu Dhabi Open on Saturday.

Kenin posted 57 unforced errors to Putintseva's 43 but still prevailed, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, over the 13th-seeded Putintseva.

“I felt like today was more of a mental match. I practice with her quite a lot so I know her game well," Kenin said. “I'm just happy with the way that I fought even though I wasn't feeling 100% on court."

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Kenin dropped the opening set for the second consecutive match in Abu Dhabi. Putintseva had match point when serving at 6-5 up in the second set, but Kenin saved the point and broke Putintseva's serve to take the set to a tiebreak.

Next up is a quarterfinal match with ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari, who beat former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4, posting 33 winners to five for the more defensive Muguruza. Kenin won her two previous matches against Sakkari, both in three sets in 2018.

Also, Elina Svitolina saved two match points in a final-set tiebreak to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (8), for a place in the quarterfinals. The second-seeded Ukrainian faces another Russian opponent, Veronika Kudermetova, in the next round.

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Aryna Sabalenka recorded her 12th consecutive win in tour matches with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ons Jabeur. The fourth-seeded Sabalenka earned a measure of revenge for her defeat to Jabeur in their only previous match in the third round of the French Open in October.

“I didn't give her any time to play, to make her trick shots,” Sabalenka said. “At Roland Garros, the courts were really slow and she had time and it was really tricky tennis. I think this was the key to today's win.”

Sabalenka has won every match she's played since the loss to Jabeur at Roland Garros, and finished last season with titles at the indoor Ostrava and Linz tournaments.

The win over Jabeur sets up a quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded Elena Rybakina, who beat Daria Kasatkina, 6-3, 6-4, in their third-round match.