Kenin crumbles to Sakkari power in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin crashed out of the WTA event in Abu Dhabi, losing in three sets to number nine seed Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals on Monday night.

After top seed Kenin took the opening set 6-2, the Greek bounced back by galloping through the next two 6-2, 6-0 winning the last 10 games in a row to complete her fifth Top 5 win and book a semi-final meeting with the Belorussian Aryna Sabalenka.

“Beating these players this week it means a lot,” said Sakkari after her win.

“I’m playing players that I’ve never played, like (Garbine Muguruza) yesterday, so I have a better idea if I play them again.

“So in general it gives me a lot of confidence starting the year like that and I’m super happy to travel to Australia with some good matches with me.”

Sofia Kenin in action. PHOTO: WTA

The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on February 8.

Kenin survived a match point in the previous round before getting the better of Yulia Putintseva but the American found the new, improved Sakkari a different proposition.

Kenin swept through the opening set but the match changed completely when Sakkari held service for 3-2 in the second and then broke Kenin to go 4-2 ahead.

The Greek, ranked 22 in the world, pounded the lines to take the set and then bulldozed the third, inflicting a rare bagel on the world number four.

“I think that one of the things that really helped me is that I realised that my ball is pretty heavy,” said Sakkari.

“I have a lot of power and I have been using it the right way.

“Up until last year I couldn’t really control my power so I had to take a little bit of pace off because I was hitting too hard and I was missing many shots.

“So I think I’ve found a way and I’ve found my real pace on the court. When I have an opportunity I go for it and that builds confidence.”