Sabalenka stunned by Vekic in Dubai

Wilson Blade 9

Playing her first match since defending the Australian Open title, Aryna Sabalenka squandered a set and 2-0 lead and suffered a surprising defeat in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships at the hands of Donna Vekic, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-0.

Aryna Sabalenka

Tuesday’s match started well for Sabalenka, who took a commanding 5-3 lead in the first set before Vekic mounted a comeback to force a tiebreaker. Sabalenka managed to secure the set but couldn’t maintain her momentum.

Reflecting on her mindset early in the match, Vekic admitted that she had already pictured herself on the beach. However, a crucial slice passing shot turned the tide in her favor, as she started recovering from a 2-0 deficit and never looked back. With improved accuracy and relentless aggression, Vekic won nine straight games from 3-3 in the second set to seal the victory on a windy day.

For Sabalenka, it was a disappointing result following a three-week hiatus after successfully defending her Melbourne title. Despite showing flashes of her trademark power, Sabalenka struggled with her serves, saving just three of ten break points she faced, and appeared frustrated as Vekic capitalized on her errors.

Vekic’s victory is not only her first against a Top 2 player since 2019 but also her sixth win over Sabalenka in their eight career meetings. Their rivalry dates back to 2016, with Vekic initially dominating the matchup by winning their first three encounters. However, Sabalenka secured a significant victory over Vekic in the 2023 Australian Open quarterfinals on her way to capturing her first major title, a defeat that stung for Vekic, who remarked, “That one hurt quite a bit.”


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