(Reuters) – World number five Aryna Sabalenka was made to toil by Liudmila Samsonova before the Belarusian sealed a 7-6(8) 7-6(3) victory that secured her place in the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International 1 WTA 500 tournament on Wednesday.
Having received a bye into the second round, second seed Sabalenka started sluggishly to find herself in trouble trailing by five games to one but the 24-year-old roared back to save six set points and claim the opening set in the tie-break.
After the pair traded breaks other early in the next set, Sabalenka showed her mental toughness again in the tie-break to seal her first win of the season in two hours and 15 minutes.
“When it’s 1-5 down it’s nothing to lose and you just go for your shots without thinking,” said Sabalenka, who avenged her November defeat by the Russian Samsonova in Guadalajara.
“I think that really helped me to stay in the set and keep fighting, keep trying … It’s definitely tough to start after the bye and especially against a player like Liudmila.
“She’s an incredible player with a huge serve, so it was a tough match and I’m super happy with this win.”
Sabalenka will next face former French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, who handed Kaia Kanepi a bagel en route to a 6-0 6-4 victory.
Martya Kostyuk rallied past Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3, while former U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu was thumped 6-4 6-0 by fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova.
STEPHENS CRASHES OUT IN AUCKLAND
Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, fell to a 6-3 7-6(5) defeat at the hands of unseeded Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in a match that resumed on Wednesday after being suspended due to rain the previous day.
Fellow major champion Sofia Kenin battled past Wang Xinyu 7-6(6) 6-3 to set up a meeting with top seed Coco Gauff as rain continued to affect the WTA 250 tournament, forcing matches to be played indoors.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)