Sabalenka and Svitolina fall again at Adelaide 2

Aryna Sabalenka, the top seed at the Adelaide International 2 this week, continued her woeful start to the season with a second first round loss on Tuesday, upset by Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson, and following the early departure of second seed Elina Svitolina, who fell to Madison Keys late on Monday.

Nothing is wrong. It’s a technical problem. I cannot serve, like, better. This is not what you’re thinking about. Aryna Sabalenka

Peterson, who is ranked 93 in the world, came through qualifying to beat the World No 2 from Belarus, 5-7 6-1 7-5, while Keys took out the 16th-ranked Ukrainian, 6-2 6-4.

Sabalenka also lost in the first round here last week to Kaja Juvan, who is ranked 100 in the world, 7-6(6) 6-1, mostly as a result of her serve falling apart, and it was a similar story on Tuesday when she coughed up 21 double-faults and won a dismal 29 percent of points off her second delivery.

The major flaw in Sabalenka’s serve is resulting in a massive loss of confidence and her game is falling apart.

Against Peterson, she could not get a serve in to save herself, and several sailed way past the service box or barely made the distance to the net.

The 23-year-old Belarusian became distressed in the third set and, after being asked by the umpire whether she was all right, she said: “Nothing is wrong. It’s a technical problem. I cannot serve, like, better. This is not what you’re thinking about.”

In her next service game, she suffered a meltdown and broke down in tears.

The Belarusian resorted to hitting underarm deliveries, and slammed her racket into the court in frustration as she gradually unravelled.

“That was definitely the weirdest match I’ve ever played,” Peterson said. “It was tough staying focused. I know she was struggling a lot.

“I just had to stay in my own world — it was really difficult.”


Rebecca Peterson held her nerve to beat Aryna Sabalenka

© Sarah Reed/Getty Images

Peterson will play Madison Brengle in round two after the American outlasted Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova, 7-5 4-6 6-1.

While top-ranked Ash Barty is a perfect 7 from 7 this year after sweeping to the singles and doubles titles at the first of successive Adelaide Internationals, Sabalenka’s preparations are left in tatters having not won a match in more than two months.

After failing to make the semi-finals of last year’s season-ending championships in Mexico following losses to Maria Sakkari and Paula Badosa in the group stages, Sabalenka arrived in Australia needing precious court time but, instead, the 23-year-old heads to Melbourne Park seriously underdone.


Madison Keys upset the No 2 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets on Monday

© Mark Brake/Getty Images

Keys, however, has got herself off to a flying start, firing 14 aces and winning 84.8% of her first serve points in a dominant performance against Svitolina as she wrapped up the win in an hour 17 minutes.

The American broke the second seed’s serve twice in the first 4 games of the match to race into a 4-0 lead, before closing out a strong opening set with a couple of comfortable service holds.

The 87th-ranked Keys kept her foot planted on the gas in the second, forcing Svitolina to defend a break point in the first game, and then breaking minutes later to take a 2-1 lead, which she rode on to take the set 6-4.

“I’m pretty happy with that,” Keys said later. “My returning was the biggest part of my game tonight, it’s what helped me get ahead.

“I’m trying to make myself live in the moment a little more. Last year I got a little too wrapped up in winning and losing and wasn’t loving playing tennis as much.”

Svitolina, who also lost her opener last week to Russia’s Anastasia Gasanova, 5-7 6-4 6-3, did not help her cause with 7 double-faults and just 3 aces, while Keys won 28 of her 33 first-serve points, which is 84.8 percent.

Keys meets Tereza Martincova next, after the Czech beat Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska, 6-4 3-6 6-3.


Aussie Maddison Inglis was wild-carded into the draw and has reached round two at Adelaide 2

© Sarah Reed/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Britain’s Heather Watson was edged out of contention by 4th-seeded Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, 2-6 6-2 7-6(4), who now will meet Australian wild-card Maddison Inglis, a 6-4 1-6 6-2 winner over lucky loser Danka Kovinic from Montenegro.

Inglis needed 2 hours and 11 minutes to secure her win as temperatures in the high 30s, which triggered the 10-minute heat break at set-all that allowed her to not only freshen up, but also channel the mindset that saw her play so well early in the contest.

“I was a little bit frustrated with how easily that second set went away from me,” she said. “I took that chance to refocus a little bit and get back to what I was doing at the start of the match.”

The third set was an arm wrestle in the early stages, until the fifth game when, serving at 2-2, Inglis was in trouble at 15-40 before landing 3 first serves in a row to fight back and hold serve and then breaking in the next game to seize the momentum and claim the last four games.

“I’ve never played Tamara before, and I’ve never practised with her, so I’ve got a bit of work to do tonight to prepare myself for tomorrow,” said the Aussie.

“She’s a terrific competitor, and she showed that with a long match today, so that’s going to be a big challenge.”

Other first-round winners include 6th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who outlasted Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, 5-7 6-4 6-3; American Alison Riske, who was a 6-4 6-4 winner over Poland’s Magda Linette; while Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk knocked off American Shelby Rogers, 6-3 6-4.

Italy’s Jasmine Paolini stopped Australian qualifier Storm Sanders, 7-5 6-2, and will meet another qualifier in Lauren Davis, after the American upset the No 7 seed Jil Teichmann from Switzerland, 1-6 7-6(3) 6-4.


Coco Gauff easily dispatched Katerina Sinakova and is now favourite to win the title as the highest seed left in the draw

© Sarah Reed/Getty Images

Another seed was also upset on Tuesday when Anhelina Kalinina from Ukraine took out Sorana Cirstea, the 9th-seeded Romanian, 6-3 6-2, while 8th seed Liudmilla Samsonova from Russia got past Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, 7-6(2) 6-4, and awaits Coco Gauff next, the American teenager, who is now the highest seed left in the draw at No 3 and easily beat World Doubles No 1 Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic, 6-1 6-2, on Tuesday night.

Gauff already has a clear sense of who she is and what she wants to accomplish, and says she is buoyed by the recent success of her fellow teenagers, 19-year-olds Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, who reached the final at last year’s the US Open.

“I was super ecstatic for the both of them,” Gauff said. “It was kind of cool to see it happen at a tournament where I guess no one expected that to happen.

“We were all in the same tournaments as a juniors, so it’s nice to see someone around my age doing so well.

“Obviously, you can’t be anything but inspired for yourself to do as well, or even better than them.”

The 17-year old is the youngest player in the Top 250, and she led World No 1 Ash Barty 6-4, 4-2 last week, before the Aussie came back to win in 3 sets.

“I feel like I’m done growing,” said Gauff, who is now ranked 22. “I got measured two months ago and I was 5-foot-9 and a quarter.

“It’s been like that for the last two or three years, but every time people see me in person, they always say I’m getting taller and I’m like, `The measurements don’t agree with you’.”


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