Garbine Muguruza made clear she is "fighting for trophies" on the WTA Tour after knocking out defending champion Aryna Sabalenka at the Qatar Open. 

Muguruza prevailed in a high-quality contest that required a third set to decide the outcome, the world number 16 and two-time grand slam champion eventually triumphing 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 after two hours, 18 minutes on court. 

Sabalenka had won their only previous meeting but the third seed saw her hopes of retaining the trophy dashed, not helped by only managing to convert four of the 13 break-point opportunities she created in the match. 

Muguruza – who matched 41 winners with the same number of unforced errors – finished in fine style, claiming the final four games in a row to set up a meeting with Maria Sakkari, who defeated Madison Keys in straight sets. 

"I'm very motivated to play top players," Muguruza said in her post-match press conference, according to the WTA Tour's website. "Like everybody, I worked hard. I'm fighting for trophies, to play well in big tournaments, in good tournaments. 

"Today I was facing a top player, and I knew I have to go out there with a big, fighting spirit, and be strong to be able to win against these tough opponents." 

While the 2020 winner is no longer involved, former champions Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova both made it beyond the second round with straight-sets wins in Wednesday's action. 

Azarenka, who claimed the title in 2012 and then returned to successfully retain it a year later, saw off qualifier Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-2. 

Kvitova, meanwhile, eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The fourth seed went all the way in 2018 and is now into the last eight this year – a 6-1 6-3 result paving the way for a clash with Anett Kontaveit.

Top seed Elina Svitolina is also through – and will face Azarenka next – after needing little over an hour to defeat Misaki Doi 6-1 6-2.

Karolina Pliskova, the second seed, found life far tougher against Ons Jabeur however, eventually coming out on top 6-4 4-6 7-5 in a thriller.

Meanwhile, at the Lyon Open, second seed Fiona Ferro progressed to the last eight on home soil after opponent Tereza Martincova was forced to retire when 4-1 down in the second set, having already lost the opener too.

Alize Cornet is another French favourite hoping to make home advantage tell in the tournament; the fifth seed rallied from a set down to beat compatriot Clara Burel 1-6 6-1 6-3. 

Jessica Pegula said she "can't be more confident" after upsetting Elina Svitolina to reach her first grand slam quarter-final and Ash Barty stayed in the hunt for Australian Open glory on Monday.

Pegula, the daughter of NFL and NHL franchise owners of the Buffalo Bills and the Sabres, beat fifth seed Svitolina 6-3 3-6 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena to set up a showdown with her fellow American and friend Jennifer Brady.

Brady made it all the way to the semi-finals of the US Open last year and has now put together her best run at Melbourne Park after seeing off Donna Vekic 6-1 7-5.

World number one Barty has not dropped a set in her home major and started the second week by dispatching Shelby Rogers 6-3 6-4.

The top seed from Queensland's next assignment will be a meeting with Karolina Muchova, who saw the back of Elise Mertens 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.

Muchova, the 25th seed from the Czech Republic, has made it through to her second grand slam quarter-final - having also reached this stage at Wimbledon in 2019 - without losing a set.

 

Pegula to put friendship to one side

Pegula and Brady are close friends, but they will have to put that to one side when they meet in the quarter-finals.

The world number 61 claimed her first victory over an opponent ranked in the top 10 just over a month after Svitolina beat her in straight sets in Abu Dhabi.

Pegula hit 31 winners to Svitolina's 19 and won 21 points from 29 when she made a trip to the net as she broke new ground at a major

She said: "I can't get more confident, it's my best result yet and I'm playing good tennis. Today was a hard-fought win, so, yeah, feeling pretty good."

Pegula added on the prospect of facing Brady: "We're here to have fun and compete. If I can do it against somebody that I like, that I wouldn't mind if they beat me, hopefully not, but if they did, why not?"

Brady benefited from strict lockdown

Many players understandably struggled during and after being in a strict two-week lockdown in a hotel room following their arrival in Australia.

Brady was among the players who were not allowed out of their rooms for a fortnight, but said she used the situation to recharge her batteries before the first major of the year.

The 22nd-seeded Pennsylvanian said: "I think it was a little bit of a benefit for me, just taking a break from tennis. I had been going non-stop since World Team Tennis in June. I didn't take any time off.

"I was playing from June and then played US Open, the U.S. tournaments, and then went straight to Europe, then finished there and was training in Europe, then went home for Christmas and then came and started in Abu Dhabi.

"So obviously I didn't really feel super fresh mentally coming into Abu Dhabi. And then when I was away from tennis for two weeks, I felt like I wanted to play again to compete and I think that helped me."

Much improved Czech

Muchova had not been beyond the second round of the Australian Open before last week but now has a semi-final spot in her sights.

The 24-year-old was 4-0 down in the opening set as Mertens got off to a flyer but warmed to the task with her battling spirit and positive approach.

Muchova converted five of the six break points she earned on Margaret Court Arena, also coming from a mini-break down in a first-set tie-break.

She struck 25 winners to Mertens' 15 and advanced despite making 31 unforced errors, getting her rewards for throwing caution to the wind.

Ash Barty may have her focus on winning the Australian Open right now but suggested a career change could be on the cards in the future.  

The world number one made sure she will still be competing during the second week of the tournament in Melbourne by beating Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets.  

But, having played international cricket for Australia before switching to tennis, could the multi-talented Barty be considering trying another sport?  

Elsewhere in Saturday's action, Karolina Pliskova lost her cool – and also a couple of rackets – as she slipped to defeat against the impressive Karolina Muchova in an empty Rod Laver Arena, with fans not able to be present due to a five-day lockdown in the state of Victoria.

Elina Svitolina had no such problems in her third-round match, while Elise Mertens was victorious in just over an hour against Belinda Bencic. Jennifer Brady ended Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan's run in the first grand slam of the year.


AUSSIE RULES, OK? 

After winning 6-2 6-4 without ever needing to be at her peak, Barty was cheekily asked by former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua – now working in the media – whether she may be set to switch paths again, once her tennis career has come to an end.  

Australian rules football was the answer – but Dellacqua maybe got more than she bargained for from her former playing partner during the on-court interview. 

"I thought it was our deal, we're going to AFLW. It's ABCD [the nickname for the pairing from their doubles career]. We come as a package, and I know we will be going to the [Richmond] Tigers that is for sure," Barty said. "You can't go to Carlton. You have to come to the 'Tiges' with me."

Dellacqua replied: "I need to get out there and start practicing some kicking, but you are good. I would love to do that one day." 

For Barty, though, the next challenge facing her is Shelby Rogers, who knocked out 21st seed Anett Kontaveit during the evening session.  


MAKING A RACKET 

A disgruntled Pliskova was not impressed when punished for smashing up a racket during her match with compatriot Muchova. 

Having received a warning when throwing a racket to the floor during the course of the final game in the opening set, the sixth seed then vented her frustration again on another while in the players' tunnel.  

An official witnessed the incident and reported it to chair umpire Alison Hughes, who punished the Czech with a point penalty before she began serving to open the second set.  

"It's off court, I'm allowed to do what I want," Pliskova insisted when querying the decision to the official. She would go on to hold before recording two successive breaks, yet somehow failed to force a decider.  

Muchova rallied from 5-0 down in sensational fashion, winning seven games on the spin to triumph 7-5 7-5 to make it through to the last 16.


CONTRASTING PROGRESS FOR SEEDS

Svitolina has still yet to drop a set in the tournament after overcoming 26th seed Yulia Putintseva by a 6-4 6-0 scoreline.  

The fifth seed was twice down a break in the first set but, after eventually coming out on top to take a 1-0 lead, breezed through the second in a hurry.  

"She has a very different game style from what I played my last two rounds, so it wasn't easy at the beginning to adjust," Svitolina said. "As soon as I was feeling better, I just stepped my game, and it was quite a comfortable win after." 

Next up will be Jessica Pegula, who is through to the fourth round at a slam for the first time in her career after thrashing Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-1.  

There was also success for another American in the main draw, Brady defeating Juvan in straight sets. Her reward is a clash with Donna Vekic, the 28th seed having to save a match point before eventually seeing off Kaia Kanepi 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 after two hours and 38 minutes on court. 

Elina Svitolina said playing behind closed doors at the Australian Open felt "a bit disturbing" after having fans in attendance earlier in the week.

The Ukrainian fifth seed booked her spot in the fourth round in Melbourne with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Yulia Putintseva on Saturday.

But no fans were in attendance on Margaret Court Arena as Victoria started a five-day lockdown due to coronavirus.

Svitolina, who will face Jessica Pegula in the last 16, said she felt the difference.

"It was very different conditions. I played a night match at 7:00 with a good crowd. Now it was completely different. It was for sure a bit disturbing, I would say, in some ways sad," she told a news conference.

"But it is what it is. I had to accept. I had to have a good mindset, not thinking too much about that. I just tried to focus on my game."

Svitolina reached the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time in four years after mixing 18 winners with 20 unforced errors.

But the 26-year-old said the lack of fans meant the third-round encounter felt like a practice match.

"It feels like that. I actually had few thoughts about it today. It feels like this. I tried to convince myself that it's a grand slam and that we are playing an important match. I have to focus on my match," Svitolina said.

"But for sure there's some thoughts and there is I say some low moments that can sneak into the mind. It's what we have to deal with. I'm trying my best to do it."

Sofia Kenin's title defence came to a shock end in the second round of the Australian Open, where world number one Ash Barty advanced amid injury concerns.

Kenin was looking to become the first woman to defend her crown at Melbourne Park since Victoria Azarenka in 2013, instead, she was a high-profile casualty in warm conditions on Thursday.

Barty, who lost to Kenin in last year's semi-finals in Melbourne, stayed alive with a straight-sets win over fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova also progressed beyond the second round as fifth seed Elina Svitolina blitzed American sensation Coco Gauff.

 

KENIN OUSTED IN BOILOVER

The American star arrived at the year's first grand slam with high expectations and looking to become the first woman to go back-to-back at a major since Serena Williams in 2016.

But fourth seed Kenin fell to experienced Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-2, having tallied 10 winners and 22 unforced errors in windy conditions in Melbourne - the scene of her breakthrough slam more than 12 months ago.

It was Kenin's first defeat to a player ranked outside the top 50 since going down to then-number 54 Iga Swiatek in the 2020 French Open final.

Asked why she was nervous pre-match, Kenin told reporters: "It's like the outside pressure. I felt really nervous. I haven't felt my game for, I don't know how long, but I haven't really felt my game so well, even in my first round. 

"I played well, but still haven't felt 100 per cent game-wise. It's obviously tough."

 

STRAPPED THIGH? NO WORRIES FOR BARTY​

Barty's left thigh was heavily strapped amid concerns but the 2019 French Open champion still booked her spot in the third round with a 6-1 7-6 (9-7) win over countrywoman Gavrilova.

The first Australian woman to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne since 1984, following last year's run, Barty gave up a 5-2 lead in the second set before saving two set points in the tie-break.

Reflecting on Kenin's surprise exit, Barty talked up the standard of the WTA Tour.

"There are no easy matches," said Barty, who next meets 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova for a spot in the round of 16. "There are no easy matches in any tour event, any slam, anything. I think every time you walk on the court, you have to try and be able to bring your best tennis to be able to compete with everyone. 

"That's just the level that there is now on the women's side. That's something really exciting about women's tennis now, is that every single match, it's a fair match. You go out there, you play hard, you try to do the best that you can."

 

PLISKOVA AVENGES LOSS, SVITOLINA TOO GOOD FOR GAUFF

Beaten by Danielle Collins in the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic just eight days ago, sixth seed Pliskova got the better of the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist this time around.

Pliskova - also a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago - defeated Collins 7-5 6-2 and next plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova.

"I just played better in some moments, which I didn't last week. Then she was not playing that well as she did last week," Czech star Pliskova said. "I knew if I at least maintain little bit, just play at least similar as I was playing last week, I knew it's going to be difficult for her to repeat what she played last week. I think she really played great."

Owning a 6-1 record in the second round at Melbourne Park - falling only at this stage in 2016 - Svitolina produced a mature performance to conquer 16-year-old star Gauff 6-4 6-3 on centre court as 26th seed Yulia Putintseva awaits. 

Elsewhere, seeds Belinda Bencic, Elise Mertens, Anett Kontaveit, Jennifer Brady and Donna Vekic moved through.

A "calmer" Garbine Muguruza made a fine start at the Australian Open, while defending champion Sofia Kenin was left annoyed despite her victory.

A finalist at the Yarra Valley Classic last week, Muguruza's good form in Melbourne continued with a rampant 6-4 6-0 victory over Margarita Gasparyan in the first round on Tuesday.

Muguruza was runner-up at Melbourne Park last year, with the two-time grand slam winner looking for her first major success since 2017.

The Spanish star, who will face Ludmilla Samsonova in the second round, said she was reaping the benefits of a changed approach.

"I was for sure working very hard, and frustrated that the results weren't there for quite a few months. Sometimes you work hard, you want it so much, that doesn't help you," Muguruza said.

"It's hard to explain, but I felt like for a moment I was working hard, I was putting all the effort out there. The time that I had to go and compete, I wanted it too much. I was getting frustrated too early. At the end I couldn't let the racquet talk.

"I feel like now, after that experience, I managed to stay a little bit calmer and to just go and compete, probably have less expectations. I'm always, like, there and always so pumped. I'm just knowing myself a little bit better now, finding ways to compete and not let that energy and that desire, too much desire, get in the way probably."

It was a relatively good day for the top women's seeds, with Kenin – who conquered Muguruza in last year's final – winning through.

Ash Barty, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Belinda Bencic also advanced, while Victoria Azarenka's poor recent record in Melbourne continued.

KENIN ANNOYED DESPITE WIN

Kenin started her title defence with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Australian Maddison Inglis.

But while the American fourth seed mixed 23 winners with 27 unforced errors, Kenin said she felt her nerves as she defends a major crown for the first time.

"I was obviously quite annoyed the whole match. I felt like the first two points I started off well, then wasn't able to close out the first game. Obviously nerves happen," she said.

"She obviously played really well. She's a tricky opponent, tricky player. Yeah, it was quite hard on myself today, quite annoyed, as you said."

Kenin's next clash is a tough encounter against Kaia Kanepi, who brushed past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-1.

BARTY, SVITOLINA AND PLISKOVA AMONG WINNERS

Barty made a spectacular start with a 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Danka Kovinic.

The world number one won the first 16 points and ended up losing just 10 for the match in an impressive start.

A two-time quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, Svitolina was tested but overcame Marie Bouzkova 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Rod Laver Arena.

A huge challenge awaits Svitolina, who will next face Coco Gauff after the 16-year-old American beat Jil Teichmann 6-3 6-2.

Czech sixth seed Pliskova made quick work of Jasmine Paolini, wrapping up a 6-0 6-2 victory in just 47 minutes.

Bencic and Anett Kontaveit were among the other seeded winners.

NO EXCUSES FOR AZARENKA

A two-time Australian Open champion, Azarenka suffered a surprise 7-5 6-4 loss to Jessica Pegula in the first round.

The Belarusian's last win at the event came in 2016, having made first-round exits in 2019 and 2021 and missed the tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Azarenka was among the players forced to quarantine ahead of the major and while she said it played a part in her exit, she offered no excuses.

"Of course, it has impacted. Somebody who's coming out of hard quarantine and maybe has been able to adjust well, they'll go, 'Oh, maybe it hasn't impacted'. Somebody who lost early will say, 'Yeah, of course, it's impacted'. It would be hard to say," she said.

"Was that the best preparation for me? No. But try to sit here and find an excuse because of quarantine and this is just something that, as I said, it is what it is.

"I am disappointed that I wasn't able to perform that I knew I could. That's a bit hard to accept today because I knew I can play better, a lot better. At the same time I feel that I've tried everything I can to be able to be prepared, but unfortunately that hasn't worked out for me."

Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari also bowed out after a loss to Kristina Mladenovic, while British 13th seed Johanna Konta retired injured while leading Kaja Juvan 6-4 0-2.

The top two seeds are both out at the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open after Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina suffered quarter-final defeats on Monday.  

Kenin had won the two previous meetings against Maria Sakkari and appeared on course to retain her 100 per cent record when cruising through the opening set.  

However, Sakkari hit back to stun the top seed, dropping just two more games as she rallied in emphatic fashion to triumph 2-6 6-2 6-0 after one hour and 23 minutes on court.  

"I think I did way too many errors and I was hitting too big when I didn't have to. But I'm glad that once again I found the way to turn the match around," the ninth seed told reporters.

Next up for Sakkari will be Aryna Sabalenka, who extended her impressive winning run to 13 matches after coming through a three-set tussle with Elena Rybakina.  

The fourth seed has not lost since going out at the 2020 French Open to Ons Jabeur - a result she avenged when the pair met on Sunday in the last eight in Abu Dhabi.  

In the other half of the draw, Veronika Kudermetova once again got the better of Svitolina, ending the second seed’s hopes of success in the tournament. 

Russian Kudermetova – who won their only previous meeting on the WTA Tour – came out on top in the deciding tie-break to triumph 5-7 6-3 7-6 (7-3).  

She will take on another player from Ukraine next, Marta Kostyuk overcoming a nightmare opening set to beat Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6 6-1 6-4 and reach the last four.

Sofia Kenin and Elina Svitolina fought back from the brink of defeat as both reached the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open quarter-finals on Sunday.

Top seed Kenin fended off a match point in the second set before battling to a 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory over Yulia Putintseva at Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre.

Putintseva was serving for a straight-sets win at 6-5 up in the second, but the tenacious Kenin forced a tie-break and rallied from 3-1 down to take the third-round match the distance.

The Australian Open champion secured three breaks in the decider to reach the last eight, hitting 35 winners to 25 from 13th seed Putintseva to set up a showdown with Maria Sakkari.

Svitolina, the second seed, was also on the verge of crashing out, but she hung in there to pull off a 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (10-8) win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The world number five was a break down in the final set and saved two match points in a tense tie-break before finally seeing the back of her Russian opponent.

Ninth seed Sakkari beat two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5 6-4 to give herself the opportunity to get the better of Kenin for the first time in three attempts.

Aryna Sabalenka stretched her impressive winning streak to 12 matches with a 6-2 6-4 success over Ons Jabeur, while Marta Kostyuk, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Elena Rybakina and Veronika Kudermetova also progressed.

Sofia Kenin and Coco Gauff both made it through to the second round of the Abu Dhabi Women's Tennis Open on a day of few shocks. 

Seven of the nine seeds in action on Thursday advanced, with only Marketa Vondrousova and Jennifer Brady falling by the wayside. 

Those upsets came despite Vondrousova and Brady each winning their opening sets - against Hsieh Su-wei and Tamara Zidansek respectively - the latter racing through 6-0 in the first before being reeled back in. 

Kenin and Gauff had no such problems, however. 

But top seed Kenin - the 2020 WTA Player of the Year - had to stay patient as she took down 789th-ranked Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7-4) 6-2. 

The first set lasted more than an hour and saw Kenin face five break points, defending each of them, with another 11 Yang opportunities following in the second, although the world number four proved more clinical en route to victory. 

"It was the first match, obviously a bit of nerves, I had to find my groove," Kenin said afterwards. "Conditions weren't easy, it was quite windy.

"The first set was tough for me. I couldn't find the ball, I guess." 

Gauff was comfortable throughout, meanwhile, swatting aside Ulrikke Eikeri 6-0 6-1 to tee up a meeting with Maria Sakkari. 

Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka each also progressed in two sets, as did Garbine Muguruza, overcoming a potentially tricky hurdle in the form of Kristina Mladenovic. 

Muguruza was a 6-2 6-4 winner and afterwards said: "I was trying to do my game, dominating, not letting her dominate the point. 

"It's the first match of the year, it's a little bit tricky to get the feeling, but I'm happy with the win." 

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