ADELAIDE: World number three Elena Rybakina overcame Cristina Bucsa in two hard-fought sets to make the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International on Wednesday, while fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula and Jelena Ostapenko had to work even harder to make the last eight.

Coming off the back of crushing Aryna Sabalenka to lift the Brisbane International title on Sunday, top seed Rybakina prevailed 6-3, 7-5 against Spaniard Bucsa though the scoreline does not quite reveal how intensely they fought producing 90 minutes of high-quality tennis.

Rybakina broke Bucsa in the eighth game, which was just enough for the Kazakh to secure a tight opening set in the Australian Open warm-up event.

Bucsa fought tooth and nail but her failure to convert any of the four break points that came her way cost her the set.

Rybakina began the second set by breaking her opponent but it was not to be a cakewalk for the top seed.

Bucsa finally converted a break point en route to a 4-3 lead but Rybakina somehow managed to dominate the big points and sealed her victory with an ace.

“I think she played really well today,” Rybakina said of her opponent. “I didn’t start that quick with the movement and everything but I think she played really well, especially coming forward, which you don’t see much in women’s tennis. It was a bit surprising for me, but yeah, happy that I managed to win.”

The Russian-born Kazakh, aiming for a deep run at the upcoming Australian Open, will face either Veronika Kudermetova or Ekaterina Alexandrova for a place in the semi-finals.

Second seeded Pegula battled back from a set down to overcome lucky loser Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an all-American clash.

Pegula looked ill at ease against Pera’s powerful left-handed game in the opening set and converted only one of her 10 break point chances.

But she found her feet in the second set to draw level and after nosing ahead by a break at 4-3 in the third she then saved five break points for a crucial hold.

Her sixth break in the next game vanquished Pera, setting up a quarter-final against 2021 French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Thursday.

“I stayed relaxed and tried not to get frustrated. I want to keep improving and have a good mindset,” said Pegula. “It’s a brand new year and I want to find my confidence for the Australian Open.”

Pegula has made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in each of the past three tournaments.

Pavlyuchenkova defeated Katerina Siniakova 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to keep her tournament hopes alive.

Former French Open champion Ostapenko had an injury scare before overpowering Caroline Garcia 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals and will next play Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.

Leading 5-4 in the opening set of what turned out to be a hitting contest, Ostapenko took a medical timeout after complaining of sharp pain in her left thigh.

She returned to secure the set but Garcia forced the decider with her spirited comeback in the second.

Ostapenko, playing with a strapped thigh, broke her opponent in the opening game of the third set and made her fourth match point count to prevail in two hours and 41 minutes.

Laura Siegemund, part of Germany’s United Cup winning team, advanced past Romanian Ana Bogdan 6-4, 7-5 with either Anna Kalinskaya or Daria Kasatkina awaiting her in the last eight.

In men’s action, top seed Tommy Paul scored an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 win against qualifier Alex Bolt, while fellow American and third seed Sebastian Korda saw off a stiff challenge from Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-6 (12/10).

They will play Briton Jack Draper and Australian Chris O’Connell respectively in the quarter-finals.

“The first match of the year, you never really know what to expect,” said Paul. “I was obviously working pretty hard in the past two months, but you can’t recreate the feelings that you have on court. So I was happy to get out there and play some good tennis.”

Draper came through a marathon, battling for 3hr 39min before finally advancing against Serb Miomir Kecmanovic 5-7, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (9/7).

Chilean second seed Nicolas Jarry also needed more than three hours to topple Italian Matteo Arnaldi 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, saving a match point in the second-set tiebreak.

In contrast, O’Connell cruised past Russia’s Alexander Shevchenko 6-3, 6-1 in 60 minutes.

At the Hobart International, another tune-up event for the Melbourne Park Grand Slam, top seed Elise Mertens powered into the last eight with a 6-2, 6-3 thrashing of the Slovak Republic’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

She will face Arantxa Rus next after the Spaniard swept past France’s Varvara Gracheva 6-2, 6-3.

Qualifier Yuan Yue, who stunned former US Open champion Sloane Stephens on Tuesday, maintained her strong run with a 7-5, 6-3 upset win against fourth seed Wang Xinyu. but fifth seed and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin crashed out.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2024



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