An advantage of being world number one and winning a grand slam at the start of a season is that you can kick back, relax, plan a wedding and watch your rivals try to catch up with you. Ash Barty’s absence in Dubai means Aryna Sabalenka has a chance to gain some points in her quest to gain that number one spot. She faces Petra Kvitova ,a veteran of the Tour in the Round of 16. Saba still has no Slam to her name although she did capture Madrid at the start of the clay court season. The thing is you never quite know which Sabalenka will show up on court. There is the Sabalenka who hits the ball well deep into the corners consistently and the other the Sabalenka who loses composure, commits bad unforced errors. Unfortunately for her camp the later made an appearance. Right from the off it was jitters for the Belarussian on her serve going down a break. Kvitova, a former grand slam champ , was playing to her strengths. That is strong second serve and finishing points quickly on the forehand. Check out 2-1 Kvitova 15-0. Although Saba lacks consistency, she shows her class once in a while.She showed it in the fourth game to break back to level scores at 2-2 , saving game point from Kvitova. A lefty’s backhand is not as prominent as the forehand. But if you can have both it helps a lot. Watch 3-2 Sabalenka(15-0 Kvitova). Kvitova gets the angle spot on, Aryna gives herself a fighting chance by getting there albeit in a losing cause. Kvitova full value for her 6-4 first set win.
The determination from Sabalenka to get on the front foot early in set two was clearly evident. The love service game one and the blistering winners in game two. Before you can say set three, Aryna was 2-0 ahead. Now what was left is to hold serve and nerve. In typical Aryna fashion, she did neither. It was the Kvitova forehand winners that did the business for the Czech. Watch the one two punch at 2-1(30-15). It was the backhand in set one now its the forehand. No Aces for Saba in this one versus 7 from Kvitova, that told the story didn’t it? Now Double faulting was common from both players 6 apiece (NOT SO HIGH IN MY BOOK)which shows the willingness to try making the second serve count. They both made it count winning 58% of their points on second serve apiece again. Kvitova closing out the match 6-4 again. She now faces former French Open Champ Je;ena Ostapenko in the Quarters.