VIDEO: Kenin advances as Flipkens retires, Jabeur battles past Bondarenko - GulfToday

VIDEO: Kenin advances as Flipkens retires, Jabeur battles past Bondarenko

Aryna Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka in action during the second round of the Abu Dhabi Open against Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday.

Top seed Sofia Kenin of the United States moved into the third round of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open on Friday afternoon after Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens had to retire due to a left ankle injury which occurred during the match.

Flipkens won the first set 7-5 and was trailing 5-4 in the second when she jumped to play a shot and landed on the advertising board behind the baseline. Her left ankle twisted underneath her.

“I obviously got a little bit upset, quite emotional. We’re good friends and that’s not something you like to see. I just hope she has a speedy recovery and gets ready for Australia,” Kenin said. “This is not the way I wanted to win.”

Kenin said she had wanted to cross to Flipkens’ side of the court to help her, but couldn’t because of social distancing rules limiting contact between players during the coronavirus pandemic.

The board which Flipkens tripped over was positioned between the baseline and a line judge’s chair. Flipkens backtracked and jumped to play a lobbed shot from Kenin and fell backwards over the board into the chair before clutching her ankle in pain.

Kenin said the advertising board was too close to the court.

“I think maybe not to get rid of it but just to push it a little bit more back,” Kenin said. “This is just like an unfortunate incident that happens.”

Flipkens broke Kenin’s serve five times in the first set, including breaking the American to love in consecutive service games to take the first set after Kenin had served for the set with a 5-4 lead.

Kenin will next play 13th-seeded Yulia Putintseva. The Kazakhstani player beat Barbora Krejcikova 6-4, 7-5.

No.15 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia fended off a fierce fight from Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko, storming back from a set down to earn a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory and claiming her spot in the third round of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.

“[Bondarenko is] a good friend, we’ve practiced together,” Jabeur informed the media during her post-match press conference. “I know how good she can play, I know how fast she can play. Today it was really a difficult match and I’m glad that I won.”

In the first meeting between the two players, World No.31 Jabeur shook off the up-and-down opening set to overcome former Top 30 player Bondarenko in one hour and 49 minutes and notch her second match-win of the year.

Currently at her career-high ranking, Jabeur struggled with errors in the opening frame, but regrouped and was helped along by 11 aces to avoid her first loss to a player ranked outside the Top 200 since 2018.

“She was returning really well, and she was putting a lot of pressure on me, and she was making the shots that I didn’t like,” said Jabeur. “At the end I was like, ‘Okay, either I get frustrated about it or I just have to do something.’ I lost the [first] set, but then I had to move on and play whatever tennis I can play to win the match, and that’s what I did.”

“I was telling myself, especially in the second set and third set, that it doesn’t matter how I play, it doesn’t matter about the quality of my game, I have to get this win,” Jabeur added.

Also, fourth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka beat Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-4 to reach the third round. She will next face Australian Open quarter-finalist Jabeur.

“I was just trying to stay calm, trying to stay in every point, and make sure I’m fighting for every point,” Sabalenka told the media during her post-match press conference.

World No.10 Sabalenka has moved to 11 straight wins on the WTA, with her two victories in Abu Dhabi following up her superb form at the end of last season, where she won back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz.

Sabalenka brought a 2-1 head-to-head lead into her match with Tomljanovic, although the World No.68 from Australia had in fact won their most recent match in straight sets, on the hardcourts of the 2019 Miami Open. Nevertheless, Sabalenka was able to grasp another win over her rival this time around, triumphing after an hour and 40 minutes of play.

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