Abu Dhabi | Bucsa beats Watson to set up quarter-final with Rybakina

Great Britain’s Heather Watson’s impressive run at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open came to an end in the last 16 on Thursday, when she was beaten 7-6(1) 7-5 by the Spanish lucky loser Cristina Bucsa, while top-seeded Elena Rybakina reached the quarter-finals, coming from a set down to defeat Danielle Collins, and both Barbora Krejcikova and Liudmilla Samsonova also made it into the Last 8.

Watson, the British No 4, was competitive throughout, only losing the first set on a tiebreak and pressing Bucsa at times in the second, but her efforts ended in disappointment.

Despite Watson being well-matched against Bucsa, it was the Spaniard who found the winners in the crucial moments, and was the first to threaten a break.

The Briton managed to defend 3 break points in the 5th game of the first set, but Bucsa pressed her again in Watson’s next service game, and this time converted.

Watson broke back in the game that would have won that first set for Bucsa, and the contest moved into the breaker after the Spaniard served to stay in the set, which she then dominated.

The Brit was the first to break in the second, wrong-footing Bucsa with a fine backhand return to move on to advantage point, which she converted to take the lead, but the Spaniard broke back immediately and heaped further pressure on her opponent.

With Watson serving to try to take the set into another breaker, Bucsa kept in touch before moving ahead, closing in on the net to drive a volley home to get to match point.

Although Watson fended it off with an un-returnable serve, Bucsa finished off the next rally brilliantly, racing across the court to guide the ball past the Briton to gain her 2nd match point, which she converted to book herself a place in the quarter-finals against Rybakina.


Top seed Elena Rybakina came from behind to defeat a rampant Danielle Collins in the 2nd-round of the WTA 500 event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

Playing her first match in Abu Dhabi after receiving a 1st-round bye, Rybakina came from behind to collect a 4-6 6-3 6-3 win against Collins, improving her record against the American to 3-1.

It took the Russian-born Kazakh 2 hours and 17 minutes to score the win, having also trailed 3-2 in the second set, and 2-1 in the decider.

The former Wimbledon champion has made the Last 8 every time she has played in Abu Dhabi, and fell at that stage to Aryna Sabalenka in 2021, and to Beatriz Haddad Maia last year.

She now has the chance to break through to her first semi-final here against Bucsa, against whom she won a tight 6-3 7-5 match in the 2nd round of Adelaide last month, their only prior meeting.

Collins, fresh from her 1st-round defeat of former World No 1 Naomi Osaka, had a second win over a Grand Slam winner well within her sights as she delivered a high-octane first set.

The 30-year-old’s intensity was high as she fired a series of winners, particularly off the backhand side, tallying 12 to only 5 unforced errors.

Having dropped just 5 points behind her first serve against Osaka, Collins maintained its efficiency, conceding only 1 point behind it in the opener.

Another hefty backhand return sealed an early break lead for the American in the second set, but Rybakina responded with an immediate break back.

The World No 5 was still not in full flow, though, and netted an attempted drop-shot to drop serve again and fall behind 3-2.

A 4-deuce tussle on the Collins serve followed, and this proved to be the turning point as Rybakina converted her 4th break point to level at 3-3, which was the start of a 4-game run that took her to the end of the second set.

They exchanged 2 tight service breaks at the start of the decider, but it was the Kazakh who made the break-through in the 5th game, finding a backhand pass to break for 3-2.

Collins’s intensity was ebbing now, the World No 71’s ratio having dipped to 16 winners and 22 unforced errors in the last 2 sets, while Rybakina had found 20 winners to her 12 miscues.

Landing deep returns to draw errors from Collins, Rybakina broke again to seal the hard-earned win.


Barbora Krejcikova advanced to the quarter-finals when Sara Sorribes Tormo was forced to retire due to injury after a fall

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

No 4 seed Barbora Krejcikova and No 8 seed Liudmila Samsonova set a quarter-final date on Friday after coming through their earlier matches on Thursday.

Krejcikova, who had received a 1st-round bye, advanced when lucky loser Sara Sorribes Tormo was forced to retire trailing 6-2, 1-0 with a right hand injury, the Spaniard having fallen and landing on her hand when reacting to a Czech drop-shot while trailing 3-2 in the first set.

Samsonova, the 2023 finalist, raced past Anhelina Kalinina from Ukraine, 6-1 6-3, in just 68 minutes and has conceded only 5 games in her 2 matches so far this week.

The Russian has split two previous meetings with Krejcikova, both last year, defeating the Czech, 7-5 7-6(6), in the 2nd-round here, but losing to her, 6-2 6-0, in the 1st-round of Stuttgart.


Liudmila Samsonova easily saw off Anhelina Kalinina to advance on Thursday

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images


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