Sabalenka survives service meltdown to avoid seed exodus

Sabalenka survives service meltdown to avoid seed exodus


World number two Aryna survived a complete service meltdown to rally for 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - World number two Aryna Sabalenka survived a complete service meltdown to rally for a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory over Wang Xinyu and avoid joining an exodus of top women’s seeds early on Thursday at the Australian Open.

Taking to court just after third seed Garbine Muguruza and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit had crashed out of the second round, Sabalenka looked to be going the same way when she double-faulted six times in her opening service game.

Her 12th double fault handed Chinese world number 100 Wang the opening set but even though the services errors continued, the Belarussian battled back to even up the contest on Rod Laver Arena.

Sabalenka had to rely on the rest of her game to keep her out of trouble as the double faults kept coming -- there were 19 in all over the match -- but ultimately progressed when Wang went long with a forehand.

"I already had a lot of experience playing without the serve so I was just telling myself ‘you have enough shots to still win the match even if you cannot serve’," Sabalenka said.

"This kind of mentality helped me to stay in the game and actually find my serve."

Sabalenka, who served up 12 double faults as she came from a set down in her first round match against local wild card Storm Sanders on Tuesday, will face 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova in the third round.

"It’s another tough opponent, I’ve played great matches against her," said Sabalenka.

Iga Swiatek will be waiting for Sabalenka in the quarter-finals if they both get that far and she was the only one of the top seeds in early action on Thursday to come through her match without any issues.

The seventh-seeded former French Open champion confirmed her strong form by swatting aside Rebecca Peterson 6-2 6-2 on John Cain Arena.

"Just starting the match with a confidence was pretty important for me," the Pole said.

"I felt like I was dominating from the beginning. After getting few breaks, it was much, much easier to go forward."