Gasanova's run ends but she's thrilled

ABU DHABI • Russian qualifier and world No. 292 Anastasia Gasanova claimed the biggest scalp of her career on Saturday, only to crash out in the fourth round of the season-opening WTA Abu Dhabi event a day later.

Gasanova sent Czech former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova packing in straight sets with a 6-2, 6-4 third-round victory in 72 minutes, recording her first victory over a player in the top 100.

But she could not maintain her momentum yesterday with Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo sealing a 7-5, 6-3 win to move into the last eight.

The world No. 66 will take on Ukraine's 99th-ranked Marta Kostyuk, who beat Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek 6-1, 6-1, today.

Still Gasanova, making her main draw debut here, was happy with her run.

"I'm really surprised..." the 21-year-old said of beating the world No. 6 Pliskova. "Actually, I had thought I would lose in qualies (sic) or something like that, but I just kept pushing myself, like, I need to win and I want to win."

In yesterday's other round-of-16 matches, sixth seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan moved into the next round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Russia's Daria Kasatkina. She will face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who has yet to drop a set here and is on a 12-match win streak, today.

The world No. 19 has only once played her 10th-ranked opponent before, losing in 2019 in Wuhan, but regardless of the outcome, it is all about building as much match fitness as possible for Rybakina.

After the Abu Dhabi event concludes on Wednesday, she will fly to Melbourne to begin her two-week quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

"At this tournament, I'm not expecting much," Rybakina told the WTA website. "I'm just trying to find the rhythm and play lots of matches.

"I think with every match, I will get better and better and soon, I can show my best, but I think it's like 50 per cent now. It's still not so close to the best.

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    Aryna Sabalenka's winning run.

"It's a lot to improve and it's not easy to catch the rhythm that I had at the beginning of 2020 (reaching four WTA finals and winning one in the first two months) because after the pandemic, it was difficult to start again.

"I think only in the end of the second half of the year, I started to play better and better but already the year was finished, so it was really crazy. So hopefully, now I can play a lot of matches now."

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WTA ABU DHABI OPEN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2021, with the headline 'Gasanova's run ends but she's thrilled'. Print Edition | Subscribe