Vekic stuns Sabalenka in Dubai shock

IT was the result few would have seen coming. Croatian Donna Vekic came from behind to upset world number two Aryna Sabalenka in three sets, 6-7 6-3 6-0 to advance through to the Round of 16 at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The win itself was an accomplishment, but the manner of which it was done was simply jaw-dropping. Coming from a set and a break down, Vekic fought her way back into the contest then won 12 of the last 13 games to bagel the shocked Sabalenka in the decider.

The match lasted two hours and 22 minutes, with Sabalenka boasting a 11-1 record coming into the match, having reached the Brisbane International final, and then won the Australian Open crown. Having not played in three weeks, it was clear Sabalenka was a little rusty, and a red-hot Vekic took full advantage.

Though the win was an upset, the Croatian does have the wood over her in-form opponent. Vekic had won five of seven past encounters, and was able to slam home 14 aces to eight, while winning 63 and 54 per cent of her first and second serve points.

Though Sabalenka won 60 per cent off her first serve, it was still lower than usual, and she struggled off her second serve with just 16 of 39 (41 per cent) and eight double faults to match her eight aces. The Belarusian did create 14 break point opportunities, and took three of them, but was broken seven times in a forgettable performance on-serve.

In the end, Vekic was simply too good and produced a performance strong enough to record her eighth top five win over her career, and victory over a top two opponent. The Croatian will advance through to the third round to take on Romanian Sorana Cirstea who also produced an upset, defeating 13th seeded Russian Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets, 6-1 6-4.

Other than Sabalenka and Kudermetova, all of the other seeds in action advanced to the Round of 16. Fourth seed and Doha finalist, Elena Rybakina was in trouble early against Victoria Azarenka, but the latter was forced to retire at a set all, allowing the Kazakh safe passage into the third round. She will take on Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech who defeated Croatian Petra Martic in three sets, 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Australian Open finalist Qinwen Zheng also had her troubles early against Japanese qualifier Nao Hibino but fought her way out of it to only concede four games in the final two sets in a 5-7 6-2 6-2 victory. She takes on unseeded Russian Anastasia Potapova in the Round of 16, for the right to play one of Iga Swiatek or Elina Svitolina.

Doha champion and top seed Swiatek got past American Sloane Stephens in straight sets, while Ukrainian Svitolina had a similarly straight forward result against German Tatjana Maria, 6-3 6-3. Also through in straight sets were third seed Coco Gauff, eighth seed Maria Sakkari and ninth seed Jelena Ostapenko.

Czech seventh seed Marketa Vondrousova had it a little tougher against rising American Peyton Stearns, winning in three sets, 6-1 5-7 6-2. Liudmila Samsonova booked her place in the third round via a walkover, while fellow Russians Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya, former number one Karolina Pliskova and Italian Jasmine Paolini were the other winners to advance through.


[1] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 6-4 6-4
Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated [2] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-7 6-3 6-0
[3] Coco Gauff (USA) defeated [LL] Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-1 7-5
[4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) defeated Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 4-6 6-2 RET
[6] Qinwen Zheng (CHN) defeated [Q] Nao Hibino (JPN) 5-7 6-2 6-2
[7] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) defeated Payton Stearns (USA) 6-1 5-7 6-2
[8] Maria Sakkari (GRE) defeated Emma Navarro (USA) 6-2 6-4
[9] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated [WC] Lulu Sun (SUI) 6-4 6-3
[12] Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) W/O
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [13] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
[15] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Tatjana Maria (GER) 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) defeated [LL] Lucia Bronzetti (ITA) 6-0 6-3
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated [WC] Ashlyn Krueger (USA) 6-7 6-3 6-4
[Q] Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) defeated [LL] Cristina Bucsa (ESP) 6-3 6-4
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-3 6-4
[Q] Magdalena Frech (POL) defeated Petra Martic (CRO) 6-4 1-6 6-2

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