WTA: Aryna Sabalenka survives three match points to make Rome quarters

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World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka saved three match points en route to defeating No. 16 seed Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7) in a late-night marathon in the Round of 16 of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Monday in Rome.

Sabalenka also endured an injury to her lower back/hip area that required a long medical timeout and kept going.

“I gave it all today,” said Sabalenka, the two-time Australian Open champ from Belarus. “I couldn’t give up. I couldn’t leave the court. I felt like if my body allows me to play even 15 percent of my best tennis, I’m going to stay there, I’m going to fight.”

Svitolina, a Ukraine native, took a 6-5, 40-15 lead in the third set before Sabalenka saved consecutive match points to bring the score level at deuce. She went on to win the 12th game, forcing the tiebreaker.

Sabalenka took a 6-5 lead for her first match point, but Svitolina served and won the next two points to swing the score in her favor. Sabalenka saved her third match point down 7-6 and ended up winning the final three points of the match.

“Sometimes I think you need to accept these tough challenges when everything is against you and fight through it,” Sabalenka said. “It’s a good preparation for the Grand Slams because in the Grand Slams sometimes not everything is going. your way and you have to fight through it.”

In the quarterfinals, Sabalenka will face Latvian No. 9 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who is also coming off a lengthy match. She rallied past Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in two hours and 46 minutes.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland also played Monday and advanced to the quarters with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber of Germany. Swiatek was patient as Kerber saved 9 of 13 break points.

“For sure, wasn’t easy,” Swiatek said after her latest win. “I’m happy in important moments at the end of both sets I was ready to break. I got my focus up a little bit. At the end that’s what made the difference, so I’m happy.”

Swiatek, who won the title in Rome in 2021 and 2022, is due to face Madison Keys in the quarters. The 18th-seeded American needed an hour flat to dispatch Romanian No. 28 seed Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-1.

It will be Keys’ first appearance in the quarterfinals at Foro Italico since 2016.

Keys is joined by two other Americans in the quarters. No. 3 seed Coco Gauff outlasted Spaniard Paula Badosa 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 to advance. No. 13 seed Danielle Collins beat Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-3 in 67 minutes for her 18th win in her past 19 matches.

Gauff’s next opponent is seventh seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who beat Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4. Collins will meet No. 24 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who knocked out fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-4, 6-1.

–Field Level Media

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