Sabalenka, Kvitova keep rolling at Wimbledon

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Aryna Sabalenka was back on her A-game Saturday as she kept up her perfect record against Russian Anna Blinkova with a 6-2, 6-3 victory in the third round of Wimbledon.

A day after the Belarusian player was screaming in frustration against Varvara Gracheva, the Australian Open champion was back to her ball-striking best as she extended her record over Blinkova to 3-0.

In a match between two players who were both barred from competing at the All England Club last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sabalenka made her experience count against an opponent who has never reached the fourth round of a major.

Sabalenka broke Blinkova, the world No. 40, three times to take the first set and then rode her thunderous returns to take a 4-2 lead in the second. Sabalenka then hung tough in the next game, which took more than 14 minutes and featured eight deuces and four break points for Blinkova, for a 5-2 lead.

The No. 2 seed then clinched the match with a searing ace to set up a fourth-round meeting against No. 21 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who advanced with a 6-0, 6-4 victory against Dalma Galfi.

Alexandrova’s 19 grass-court wins since the start of 2021 are third most among WTA players in that span.

No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova, a two-time champion at the All England Club, reached the fourth round for only the second time since triumphing nine years ago with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Serbian qualifier Natalija Stevanovic in a rain-disrupted encounter.

It is the seventh time that Kvitova has advanced to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, tying Agnieszka Radwanska for the second-most among women since 2010.

Following a two-hour rain break late into the second set, Stevanovic, who is ranked 225th, stretched the Czech player to six deuces and three break points, even winning the longest rally of the match by capping off a breathtaking 20-shot exchange with a forehand winner into the corner.

After watching three match points disappear, Kvitova finally triumphed on her fourth attempt to seal a last-16 showdown with either 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu or No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur.

“It’s been a while since I was in the second week of Wimbledon, so I am very happy,” said the 33-year-old Kvitova, who is on an eight-match win streak after capturing the grass-court title in Berlin.

“I love playing on grass and when my serve is working well I love it even more.”

Also reaching the fourth round is Beatriz Haddad Maia, who rolled to an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 victory over Sorana Cirstea just before rain interrupted play.

Haddad Maia became the first Brazilian woman to reach the top 10 in the WTA rankings after her semifinal run at the French Open last month.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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