Sorana stuns Sakkari to reach Abu Dhabi quarters
A GOBSMACKING performance from Sorana Cirstea resulted in the Romanian world number 26 completely dismantling Greek third seed Maria Sakkari to reach the WTA 500 Abu Dhabi quarter finals overnight. Though Cirstea had a 2-1 head-to-head record over the top 10 talent, few could have seen the 33-year-old winning 6-2 6-1 in an hour and 17 minutes.
Cirstea beat Sakkari in the first two meetings between the pair – one on clay and one on hard – but has not done so since 2018, with Sakkari winning in their most recent outing at Cincinnati last year. However, even in that clash, the Greek star was made to work for the win, coming back from a set down to post a 2-6 6-3 7-5 victory.
There was no such salvation for the third seed at Abu Dhabi, as the Romanian – who turns 34 in April – wound back the clock to record her second straight upset. Coming into the WTA 500 tournament, Cirstea was zero and three for wins and losses in 2024, but that changed when the unseeded veteran stunned former French top five player, Caroline Garcia in the first round.
There, Cirstea came back from a set down to a post a 6-7 6-4 6-4 triumph, but her 6-2 6-1 demolition job of Sakkari in 77 minutes was even better. She won an impressive 75 and 56 per cent of her first and second serve points off a 67 per cent clip, as Sakkari struggled big time on serve. The favourite produced six double faults without an ace, and won just 48 per cent of her total service points including just 10 of 26 (38 per cent) off her second serve.
Cirstea was able to generate 16 break point opportunities, and therefore capitalise on five, constantly putting pressure on the Sakkari serve. By contrast, the Romanian saved all six break point chances that Sakkari generated on return, only dropping 15 points on serve for the match and convincingly storming through to the quarter finals in style.
Awaiting Cirstea in the quarter finals is seventh seeded Russian, Daria Kasatkina after she took down a determined Ashlyn Krueger. Though the American qualifier pushed Kasatkina in the second set, the world number 14 came away with the 6-3 7-5 victory. Kasatkina only dropped 13 points on serve and broke her opponent four times in the win.
After an eye-catching Round of 16 performance, 2021 US Open winner Emma Raducanu was unable to reproduce the form that saw her destroy Czech, Marie Bouzkova. The wildcard ran into an impressive Ons Jabeur as the second seeded Tunisian stormed away to post a 6-4 6-1 victory and reach the last eight.
Jabeur will now take on sixth seed, Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia who broke the shackles in the third set against Magda Linette in what had been a titanic struggle for the first two. Splitting their tiebreakers across the opening couple of sets, Haddad Maia finally got on top in the third, running out a 7-6 6-7 6-1 winner in three hours and 42 minutes. A total of 242 points were played in the match, which is a 105 more than any of the other matches.
ABU DHABI OPEN – WTA 500 ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
 Ons Jabeur (TUN) defeated [WC] Emma Raducanu (GBR) 6-4 6-1
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated  Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-2 6-1
 Beatrice Haddad Maia (BRA) defeated Magda Linette (POL) 7-6 6-7 6-1
 Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated [Q] Ashlyn Krueger (USA) 6-3 7-5
ACROSS THE WTA TOUR …
The Transylvania Open has kicked off its second round of action overnight despite some first round matches just finishing off on the same day in Cluj-Napoca. The WTA Tour 250 event saw some impressive results thus far with top seed Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus overcoming French qualifier Alize Cornet in three sets, 4-6 6-4 6-0 to book. spot in the quarter finals, while Spaniard Nuria Parrizas Diaz joined her in the final eight after a one-hour and 50-minute victory over Russian Anna Blinkova, 6-1 3-6 6-4.
It was a good day for the Italians with Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Sara Errani both winning their first round matches comfortably to reach the Round of 16, while top local hope and eighth seed Ana Bogdan knocked off qualifier Erika Andreeva in the other completed second round match for the day. Romanian Sorana Cirstea remains alive and will take on incredibly talented, but injury prone Clara Tauson in the Round of 16, while Errani will meet second seed, Tatjana Maria.
Czech Karolina Pliskova will lock horns with young Colombian Maria Camila Osorio, Cocciaretto faces British qualifier Harriet Dart, and sixth seeded Russian Elina Avanesyan goes toe-for-toe with Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in the other Round of 16 matches.