After Karolina Pliskova’s premature departure from the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Open, Aryna Sabalenka has taken over the mantle of third favourite contender for the title on Wednesday, and she has extended her unbeaten run on the WTA Tour to 12 matches after dismissing Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, 6-2 6-4, on Sunday.
It was a tough one but I think what I did well today is I didn't give her time to play, to do her trick shots and that's why I think she didn't feel really well on the court. Aryna Sabalenka
The Belarusian was unstoppable at the start of the match, romping through the opening set in less than 30 minutes and dropping just 6 points on her serve.
Jabeur, however, proved more problematic in the second by breaking Sabalenka twice and was, at one stage, leading 4-2.
Despite these wobbles, the World No 10 retrieved both of breaks before claiming 4 straight games to book her place in the quarter-finals.
“I’m really happy with this win because I lost to her at Roland Garros, so this was a really tricky game and I was a little bit nervous,” Sabalenka admitted.
“It was a tough one but I think what I did well today is I didn’t give her time to play, to do her trick shots and that’s why I think she didn’t feel really well on the court.
“That’s what I needed at Roland Garros. The courts were really slow and she had the time and it was really tricky tennis.
“I think this was the key for today’s win.”
Sabalenka’s victory is a case of sweet revenge after losing to Jabeur at the French Open in what was her least defeat on the Tour and since then, she has won the titles in Ostrava and Linz.
In this latest match she won 60% of her service points but did hit twice as many unforced errors than winners, with 20-10.
“Yeah, I’ve won 12 matches, but tomorrow’s another day, and I’ll do everything I can to win another one. I’m not afraid of losing. This is part of our job. But I’ll try to do everything I can to keep winning.” She said.
Awaiting Sabalenka in Monday’s quarter-final will be rising star Elena Rybakina, who reached 5 WTA finals last season, winning the Hobart Open.
The Kazakh eased through her third round match in just over an hour after dismissing Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 6-4, breaking the Russian 3 times, including twice at the start of the second set, to seal victory.
“Rybakina, she’s a really aggressive player with a big serve. It’s going to be a really tough one,” Sabalenka commented. “I’ll just need to be ready for her serves and quick shots, stay low and move really well.”
The upcoming match will only be the second time the two have locked horns on the Tour. In their first meeting at the 2019 Wuhan Open Rybakina prevailed in three sets.
Also through to the last eight is 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk, who crushed Tamara Zidanšek, 6-1 6-1.
The teenager, who is ranked 99 in the world, is making her debut in a WTA 500 event and it is only the second time in her career she has reached the last 8 of a WTA event.
In her quarter-final, Kostyuk meets Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, who took out the qualifier from Russia that dispatched Pliskova, Anastasia Gasanova, 7-5 6-3.