‘Being Grand Slam champion’ helps Kenin escape Abu Dhabi shock

Sofia Kenin of the United States in action against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan at the 2021 Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open WTA 500 tournament on January 10, 2021. — Reuters pic
Sofia Kenin of the United States in action against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan at the 2021 Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open WTA 500 tournament on January 10, 2021. — Reuters pic

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ABU DHABI, Jan 11 — Top seed Sofia Kenin admitted “being a Grand Slam champion” proved crucial as she saved a match point to reach the quarter-finals of the season-opening Abu Dhabi WTA tournament on Sunday.

The defending Australian Open champion defeated 13th-seeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

However, Kenin, who was also last year’s Roland Garros runner-up, had to save a match point in the 12th game of the second set to stay alive.

She will now face ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece for a semi-final spot.

Sakkari defeated fifth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, the former Wimbledon and Roland Garros winner, 7-5, 6-4.

“I practice with her (Putintseva) quite a bit, and I know her game well, and she knows my game pretty well,” Kenin said during her post-match press conference.

“I guess it helps being a Grand Slam champion, knowing kind of what to do on those tough points, those tough moments, and I was able to find my rhythm by the end of the third set.”

Ukraine second seed Elina Svitolina came from 3-5 down in the final set and saved two match points during the final-set tiebreak to beat 17th-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 6-2, 6-7 (7/5), 7-6 (10/8).

Alexandrova fired 40 winners although they were outweighed by 57 unforced errors.

Svitolina will next face another Russian, Veronika Kudermetova who saw off Spain’s Paula Badosa 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

“She was striking the ball really well,” Svitolina said.

“It was really tricky for me to come back from being 3-5 down. I was just trying to be focused on every point and not let this match take away the good tennis that I played in the first set.”

Monday’s other quarter-finals see fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka face Elena Rybakina, the sixth seed, and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine tackle fellow unseeded player Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. — AFP

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