Elena Rybakina is thrilled her parents will be on hand for Saturday's Australian Open final after they were unable to witness her Wimbledon triumph.

The Moscow-born 23-year-old, now competing for Kazakhstan, achieved a grand slam breakthrough when she overcame Ons Jabeur to triumph at the All England Club last July.

It was a victory that was tinged with sadness, though, with father Andrey and mother Ekaterina not able to obtain visas to travel from Russia to London.

Rybakina broke down in tears in a press conference after her Wimbledon triumph when asked about her absent parents, but they are with her in Melbourne and will be in the stands to watch the title match against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

A 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win against two-time champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday carried Rybakina through to the showpiece match.

When she was asked whether being on site makes the occasion more special for her parents, Rybakina said: "For sure it's great for them. I didn't even talk with them yet, but I'm sure they're happy. They don't see me often playing live, so I think this time it's a big result already.

"No matter how I play in the final, I think they're very proud and happy.

"For sure they're nervous. I think every match I play they're nervous, no matter if it's live or they're watching on TV. You can never get used to this. Of course, you're going to be nervous no matter if it's first round or final."

Rybakina has lost her three previous matches against Sabalenka, with each of them following the same pattern. Sabalenka has won the first set every time, dropped the second, and then come back to convincingly take the decider.

They have not played since 2021, however, and Rybakina has become a slam champion since then, while Sabalenka still awaits a breakthrough on that scale.

Given Sabalenka is unbeaten in 10 matches this year and has yet to even drop a set, Rybakina may still have her work cut out at the weekend.

However, Rybakina is the player who sank the title hopes of world number one Iga Swiatek in round four, and she also saw off the dangerous Jelena Ostapenko, a former French Open winner, before toppling Azarenka.

"It was a great challenge for me because for sure they have experience of winning grand slams, so it was nothing new for them," Rybakina said. "For me this time I would say it was a bit easier also compared to Wimbledon when I was playing for the first time in the quarters, semis, final.

"For sure, they're very experienced players. I knew that I have to focus on every point. I think in the end I did real well."

The difference between Rybakina before last year's Wimbledon and the player now in the hunt for a second grand slam is obvious.

She knows there are no limits for her at these tournaments, having gone all the way, whereas Sabalenka has never previously contested a singles slam final.

"Everything was new at Wimbledon. Now I more or less understand what to expect," Rybakina said.

Her parents have a grip on what she can achieve too, and Andrey's suggestion she should have gone to college as a teenager rather than join the professional ranks is something they can now laugh off.

"Well, we didn't talk about this, but I will ask for sure now since you mention it," Rybakina said, when her father's advice was brought up. "For every parent, it's difficult to make any decision because I'm young and of course I want to play. For them, they're worried if I will be injured or something.

"But I think he's happy and he's very proud. I know that from the beginning, they believed in me no matter if I will lose first round or anything as a junior because they saw also potential, how I loved the game. I think they're just proud now."

Victoria Azarenka was not impressed with being asked a "provocative question" about a pro-Russia demonstration at the Australian Open after her semi-final defeat to Elena Rybakina.

Azarenka's quest to end a 10-year wait for a third grand slam singles title ended when the Belarusian was beaten 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 by the Wimbledon champion on Thursday.

The 33-year-old's loss on Rod Laver Arena came after Novak Djokovic's father, Srdjan, was seen with supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin at Melbourne Park.

Pro-Putin agitators staged a rally outside Rod Laver Arena, after Djokovic beat Russian Andrey Rublev to reach the last four on Wednesday, with four people later questioned by police following allegations that security guards were threatened.

Rublev has previously expressed his opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing since last February.

Putin supporters chanted and carried Serbian and Russian flags. One man appeared to be wearing a T-shirt adorned with the letter 'Z' – used as a pro-war symbol in Russia.

Srdjan Djokovic was seen standing with the group alongside a man holding a Russian flag with Putin's face on it. According to reports, he said: "Long live the Russians."

Tennis Australia banned Russian and Belarusian flags from being taken into grounds, after a spectator was reported to security for displaying one during a match between Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova.

Azarenka was not happy with being asked about political issues during her post-match press conference.

She told a reporter: "You're here talking about it right now, so obviously it's a topic you want to continue to bring up and up and up again. I don't know what you want me to say."

Asked if Djokovic might be affected by the incident, Azarenka replied: "I don't know what it has to do with Novak at all, to be fair, so...

"I've spoken to actually a security guard today who was walking me to practice every day. I've known him for years. I just asked him what was the accident [sic]. He explained to me.

"I don't know what you guys want us to do about it. Like talk about it? I don't know what's the goal here that it's continuously brought up. These incidents that in my opinion have nothing to do with players, but somehow you keep dragging players into it.

"So what's the goal here? I think you should ask yourself that question, not me.

"Whatever the answer I'm going to give to you right now, it's going to be turned whichever way you want to turn it to. So does it bother me? What bothers me is there's real things that's going on in the world. I don't know. Are you a politician? Are you? Are you covering politics?"

When the reporter said: "No, I'm a sports journalist", Azarenka responded by saying: "And I'm an athlete. You're asking me about things that maybe somebody says are in my control, but I don't believe that.

"I don't know what you want me to answer. If it's a provocative question, then you can spin the story however you want."

Elena Rybakina reached her first Australian Open final with a straight-sets victory over Victoria Azarenka on Rod Laver Arena.   Wimbledon champion Rybakina was not at her best but came from a break down in the opener and went on to win 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 on Thursday.   Rybakina struggled with her first serve, but a below-par Azarenka was unable to capitalise in her first Australian Open semi-final since retaining her title a decade ago.   The Kazakh will face Arnya Sabalenka or Magda Linette in her second grand slam final on Saturday.


Rybakina, the 22nd seed, started with a double fault but there were no signs of nerves as she followed that up with three aces to hold, but Azarenka earned the first break with a well-constructed point that she ended with a volley to lead 3-2.

Azarenka was unable to consolidate that break, though, as a combination of power and precision enabled Rybakina to hit straight back and the 23-year-old was 5-3 up following an unforced error from her experienced opponent.

Rybakina was unable to serve out the set as the battling two-time champion conjured up a majestic forehand winner on the run, saving a set point before breaking back.

There was frustration for 24th seed Azarenka when she saw three break points come and go in the next game as Rybakina endured huge struggles with her first serve, but won a tense, error-strewn tie-break when the former world number one sprayed a forehand wide.

Azarenka saved a break point first game of the second with a sublime cross-court forehand winner and held with an ace, but Rybakina was able to secure the break for a 2-1 lead.

Rybakina wasted a great chance to go 4-1 up when she missed a simple forehand, but she was serving for the set after Azarenka also got a forehand all wrong.

She was unable to serve it out, but a flat Azarenka bowed out following a poor service game that she ended by crashing a backhand into the net.


Rybakina overcomes another major hurdle

That is three major champions Rybakina has seen off to reach her maiden Australian Open final.

She beat strong favourite and world number one Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and got past Jelena Ostapenko before toppling Azarenka.


ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Rybakina– 9/3
Azarenka– 3/6

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Rybakina– 30/21
Azarenka– 26/27

BREAK POINTS WON

Rybakina – 5/11
Azarenka– 3/8

Victoria Azarenka sympathised with Novak Djokovic as she stated tennis players are "not villains" after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in a decade.

Azarenka beat Jessica Pegula 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday to set up a last-four meeting with Elena Rybakina.

Former world number one Azarenka came in for criticism when she took a medical timeout during her last semi-final at Melbourne Park back in 2013, delaying her match against Sloane Stephens by 10 minutes.

The Belarusian, who is now 33, returned to beat Stephens and went on to defend successfully her title.

Questions have been raised over the extent of a hamstring issue nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic has been contending with as he attempts to match Rafael Nadal's tally of 22 major triumphs this weekend.

Azarenka feels it is out of order for such suspicions to be raised by people who are not aware of the facts.

She said: "Do you know what happened 10 years ago? That's the thing.

"It was one of the worst things that I've ever gone through in my professional career, the way I was treated after that moment, the way I had to explain myself until 10:30pm at night because people didn't want to believe me. I actually can resonate what Novak said the other day.

"There is sometimes incredible desire for a villain and a hero story that has to be written. But we're not villains, we're not heroes, we are regular human beings that go through so many, many things.

"Assumptions and judgements, all those comments, are just s*** because nobody's there to see the full story. It didn't matter how many times I said my story, it did not cut through.

"Actually it's funny that you're saying that because I was thinking about it. It took me 10 f****** years to get over it. I finally am over that."

Asked to expound what the judgements or assumptions she experienced were, Azarenka said: "I've been called that I'm cheating, that I'm faking, that I was trying to throw people off their game. It's everything that is so wrong about my character if somebody actually knows me.

"At some point I've heard that she has this thing that is bad or this thing is bad, whatever. At some point you're like, 'Really? Am I?'. Those doubts starts to creep in.

"Now I just don't care. I am more and more confident in what I know about myself, and I'm at peace with that. Those comments, judgements, they're there. I notice them. But I don't care."

Victoria Azarenka is through to her first Australian Open semi-final in a decade after beating Jessica Pegula in straights sets.

Azarenka had not reached the last four at Melbourne Park since going on to retain her title in 2013, but ended that wait with an impressive 6-4 6-1 victory over the third seed on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old from Belarus will do battle with Elena Rybakina for a place in the final following a commanding display on Rod Laver Arena.

Azarenka, the 24th seed, stormed into a 3-0 lead and although Pegula got back on serve at 5-3, she was a set down after being broken for a second time.

The experienced Azarenka clinically grasped her first break-point opportunity of the second set but Pegula hit straight back with a break of her own in the next game.

She was unable to turn the tide, though, as an inspired Azarenka dominated the remainder of the set with another two breaks and losing only a further two points behind her serve.

Azarenka, a winner of two mixed doubles grand slam titles since her last major triumph at this tournament 10 years ago, wrapped up the victory in an hour and 37 minutes.

 

Azarenka moves level with Graf

This quarter-final win for the former world number one took her tally of main-draw victories at the Australian Open to 47.

She is now level with the great Steffi Graf in sixth place on the list of the most women’s singles main-draw triumphs in this tournament in the Open Era.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Azarenka – 0/2
Pegula – 3/2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Azarenka– 17/20
Pegula– 19/31

BREAK POINTS WON

Azarenka – 5/13
Pegula – 2/4

Maria Sakkari joined eight of her fellow co-stars from the Netflix series Break Point in suffering an early exit from the Australian Open.

Of the 10 players to have featured in the series, which first aired on the streaming platform last week, only Felix Auger-Aliassime remains following Sakkari's defeat to Lin Zhu on Friday.

Sakkari, the WTA sixth seed, went down 7-6 1-6 6-4 to world number 87 Lin, who claimed her first victory over a top-10 opponent.

Lin became the sixth Chinese female player to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open in the Open Era.

"I mean honestly, am I in a dream?" Lin said in her on-court interview.

"I have to believe in myself that I have the ability to be able to play at this high level. Who knows what's going to happen? You never know."

She added in her press conference: "It means a lot. It makes me believe that I can play at this level and I can beat a player like her.

"It took me a long time to get here, and so that's why I'm so emotional. This is not the end. Let's keep going."

Sakkari's defeat saw the Greek join Thanasi Kokkinakis, Taylor Fritz, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Ons Jabeur in exiting the season's first grand slam within the opening three rounds.

Ruud and Jabeur were the respective second seeds in the men's and women's singles, while Berrettini and Kokkinakis both fell foul of a resurgent Andy Murray, whose victory comeback over Kokkinakis lasted almost six hours and went on beyond 4:00 am local time.

Nick Kyrgios, Ajla Tomljanovic and Paula Badosa also featured in the five-part Netflix series, which will air its second batch of episodes later in the year, but all three withdrew from the Australian Open due to injury.

A downcast Sakkari, who had rubbished the suggestion of any "Netflix curse" in a previous press conference, told reporters: "I think that my level was not good at all. I started the match by being very defensive and not hitting the ball, just being scared of playing my game.

"She had basically nothing to lose. She was playing free. She was enjoying herself. She was playing very, very well. I didn't handle the situation well.

"She was barely missing anything, [not] making any unforced errors. That's how I felt. She was very solid from both sides. I've seen her on the tour. I've never seen her playing that well, to be honest.

"Of course, beating Jil [Teichmann] in the round before, she was pretty pumped and motivated to have a good result here. She has achieved it already by beating two very good players."

Lin's next opponent will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who became the eighth female player in the Open Era to win 45+ main draw matches at the Australian Open by beating Madison Keys 1-6 6-2 6-1.

Azarenka joins Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova on that list.

"She's a great champion," Lin said of Azarenka. "She's a great player. I will just keep playing like I played today and trust myself, enjoy the match. Who knows?"

Teenage Czech qualifier Linda Noskova upset former world number one Victoria Azarenka to set up a semi-final showdown with Ons Jabeur at the Adelaide International.

In a match lasting almost three hours, Noskova triumphed 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (8-6) to continue a dream run in Australia.

Noskova has already beaten third seed Daria Kasatkina in Adelaide and, on only her sixth appearance in a WTA main draw, has won five straight matches.

Further progress will be no easy feat, with top seed Jabeur – a losing finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022 – grinding out a 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 win over Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk.

On the other side of the draw, second seed Aryna Sabalenka held off a resurgent Marketa Vondrousova to win 6-3 7-5. The Belarusian had led 4-1 in the second set before losing four of the next five games and failing on match point prior to finally seeing it out.

Irina-Camelia Begu defeated fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 6-4 to set up a last-four clash with Sabalenka.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland, top seed Coco Gauff outclassed Zhu Lin 6-3 6-2, winning 90 per cent of first-serve points, firing down eight aces, and not giving up a single break point.

Seventh seed Danka Kovinic also won 6-3 6-2 against Viktoria Kuzmova to set up a semi-final clash with Gauff, while world number 95 Ysaline Bonaventure ousted third seed Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-2 to reach a first Tour-level semi-final where Rebeka Masarova awaits.

Emma Raducanu was in tears as she retired with an ankle injury at the ASB Classic 11 days before the Australian Open starts, while Coco Gauff beat Sofia Kenin to reach the quarter-finals.

Raducanu dished out a bagel to qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova in the first set of the round of 16 match in Auckland on Thursday, but the 2021 US Open champion was unable to continue after losing the second set 7-5.

The 20-year-old Brit ended a disappointing 2022 season early due to a wrist injury and suffered another blow ahead of the first major of this year, leaving the court in tears.

Gauff will be eyeing her maiden grand slam title in 2023 and she impressively dispatched fellow American Kenin 6-4 6-4 in the second round in the capital of New Zealand.

Top seed Gauff and her compatriot were forced to play indoors due to the rain and it was the 18-year-old who prevailed, breaking three times and saving six of the break points she faced.

The teenager will face Zhu Lin of China for a place in the semi-finals after she beat Venus Williams 3-6 6-2 7-5.

Leylah Fernandez inflicted a crushing 6-0 6-1 defeat on Julia Grabher after losing only two games in her first-round win over Brenda Fruhvirtova and the Canadian will now face Ysaline Bonaventure, who defeated Rebecca Marino in three sets.

Top seed Ons Jabeur made a winning start to the season at the Adelaide International, seeing off Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 to set up a meeting with Marta Kostyuk

Irina-Camelia Begu claimed the scalp of Jelena Ostapenko with a 6-3 6-0 upset of the seventh seed, while Victoria Azarenka was a 6-2 7-5 winner against Zheng Qinwen and teenager Linda Noskova got past Claire Liu in straight sets.

Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff both got off to winning starts at the ASB Classic in Auckland on Tuesday.

Raducanu had to come from a set down to beat Linda Fruhvirtova 4-6 6-4 6-2, while top seed Gauff had an easier time of it as she dismissed Tatjana Maria 6-4 6-1 on another day interrupted by the rain.

Second seed Sloane Stephens was only able to get through three games before play was suspended in her match against Rebeka Masarova, while fifth seed Wang Xiyu was 5-3 down in the first set against Karolina Muchova when the rain came.

Fourth seed Bernarda Pera is out after her match with Viktoria Kuzmova resumed having being washed out on Monday, and the American was unable to prevent a 6-4 6-4 defeat, with Kuzmova advancing to face Raducanu in the last 16.

The only two other matches completed on Tuesday saw Elena-Gabriela Ruse beat Erin Routliffe in three sets, and Anna Blinkova overcome Elisabetta Cocciaretto, also in three.

At the Adelaide International, Zheng Qinwen earned a hard-fought victory against number six seed Anett Kontaveit, eventually winning 6-1 4-6 7-6 (9-7).

Eighth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova also crashed out despite winning the first set against Marketa Vondrousova, going on to lose 4-6 6-3 6-2, though seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko is through after beating Karolina Pliskova 6-1 6-3.

In a contest that lasted over two-and-a-half hours despite only two sets being played, Victoria Azarenka beat Anhelina Kalinina 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-5), and will face Zheng next, while Sorana Cirstea will go up against top seed Ons Jabeur in the last 16 after beating Viktorija Golubic in straight sets.

Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players taking part last year was unjust and changed nothing regarding the war in Ukraine, believes Aryna Sabalenka.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) barred players from both countries appearing at SW19 – a decision that saw the organisation fined by the ATP last month.

World number five Sabalenka joined the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Victoria Azarenka in being excluded, and she believes the ban was both unfair and pointless.

"This is really terrible because no one supports war – no one," Sabalenka told The Age of the ban. "I'm just really disappointed sport is somehow in politics. 

"We're just athletes playing their sport. That's it. We're not about politics. If all of us could do something [about the war], we would do it, but we have zero control.

"They banned us from Wimbledon, and what did it change? Nothing. [The Russian government] are still doing this, and this is the sad part of this situation."

The LTA is yet to say whether similar measures will be in place this year, and Sabalenka is hopeful of a return after missing the atmosphere at SW19 in 2022.

"I really missed the people because the atmosphere at Wimbledon is super amazing," she said. "You can feel these people really love tennis there, and I really miss them.

"I really hope that I'll play there, just because of the people, to feel this atmosphere. If they're going to ban us again... I don't care about Wimbledon's decision. The only thing I'll miss is the people."

World number five Jessica Pegula clinched a berth in her second WTA final of the year with a straight-sets victory over Victoria Azarenka at the Guadalajara Open on a rainy Saturday.

Pegula defeated the former world number one Belarussian 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 in one hour and 29 minutes, having fought back from a 4-1 first-set deficit.

The American will need to wait until Sunday to learn her opponent, with rain forcing Maria Sakkari and Marie Bouzkova's semi-final to be suspended and eventually postponed with the Greek leading 7-5.

Pegula's triumph was her 40th win of the season, becoming the 10th American woman to achieve that feat.

The victory also made it four successive Grand Slam winners that Pegula has overcome to reach the final in Guadalajara, knocking off Sloane Stephens, Bianca Andreescu and Elena Rybakina along with Azarenka.

Pegula converted three of eight break points, while Azarenka took her only break point of the match to help her open up the 4-1 first-set lead.

The American proved better on her second serve, while she managed to win 15 of 26 points on Azarenka's second serve.

Sakkari and Bouzkova's semi-final will resume at 1pm local time on Sunday, with the fourth seed leading 7-5 after an epic first set that lasted 84 minutes.

The Greek showed off her grit after fluffing an early 3-1 lead by taking her eighth set point, winning a 22-shot rally - the longest of the first set - to break Bouzkova in the 12th game.

The final is due to commence no earlier than 6pm local time on Sunday, meaning it will be a physical test for the victor.

Maria Sakkari secured the eighth and final place at the WTA Finals after defeating Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 5-7 6-4 to reach the semi-finals at the Guadalajara Open on Friday.

The WTA Finals – which is contested by the women who finish top-eight for the season in ranking points – already had seven entrants locked in, with the eighth to be decided by the winner between world number six Sakkari and world number 12 Kudermetova.

Sakkari's ability to fight her way out of tough situations proved to be the difference as she saved 14 of the 15 break points she faced, while converting three of her nine chances. In the deciding third set, Sakkari made the most of her only break point, while saving all five of Kudermetova's chances to get back into the contest.

She will play Marie Bouzkova in the semi-final after the unseeded Czech was the beneficiary of Anna Kalinskaya's injury retirement in the first set, with Bouzkova leading 5-2.

It continues a terrific run of form for the 24-year-old Bouzkova, who is 19-3 in her past 22 matches, with her only losses in that span coming against world number 20 Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and world number two Ons Jabeur.

On the other side of the draw, Jessica Pegula breezed through the challenge of Sloane Stephens to win 6-2 6-2, which would have set up a tantalising all-American matchup against her doubles partner and rising star Coco Gauff, but she could not hold up her end of the bargain.

Gauff fell 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 to Victoria Azarenka, giving the Belarusian her third consecutive top-20 win after earning her spot in the quarter-final with victories over world number eight Paula Badosa and world number 15 Madison Keys.

American teenager Coco Gauff showed why she deserves to be at this year's WTA Finals with a commanding 6-0 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan at the Guadalajara Open.

The fifth seed clinched her maiden spot at the season-ending WTA Finals on Wednesday and backed that up by securing her third WTA 1000 quarter-final on Thursday.

Gauff reeled off the first nine games of the match against Trevisan, where she triumphed in one hour and one minute. The 18-year-old came under pressure from Trevisan, who generated nine break points for the match but Gauff saved all bar one of them.

World number one Iga Swiatek (47) is the only player to have won more matches this year in straight sets than Gauff (32).

Gauff will face Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals after the Belarusian toppled 13th seed Madison Keys 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 in two hours and 13 minutes.

Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka swept aside Keys in 32 minutes in the third set after a titanic battle in the opening two frames, winning 26 of the 37 final-set points. Azarenka's quarter-final appearance is her 34th since 2009, with only four players having more during the span; Agnieszka Radwanska (42), Simona Halep (39) and Caroline Wozniacki (36).

Third seed Jessica Pegula advanced to the last eight with a 6-4 6-4 victory over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. 

The American, who survived three match points against Elena Rybakina on Wednesday, trailed early against the Canadian but took control of the match. Pegula will face Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals after she toppled 2022 US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.

On the day her WTA Finals berth was confirmed, seventh seed Daria Kasatkina lost 6-2 2-6 6-3 to Anna Kalinskaya in two hours and 14 minutes.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari fought back to win 5-7 6-3 6-3 over 14th seed Danielle Collins, while Marie Bouzkova copped a bagel before triumphing 0-6 7-5 6-3 over Liudmila Samsonova.

Sakkari will next meet eighth seed Veronika Kudermetova who beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-4. Bouzkova will take on Kalinskaya in the last eight.

It was a great day for the highly ranked Americans at the Guadalajara Open on Wednesday, headlined by world number five Jessica Pegula and her 2-6 6-3 7-6 (10-8) comeback win over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

Pegula, who is now locked into the top-eight and therefore will qualify for the WTA Finals, struggled to win points on her serve in the opening set, but raised her 57 per cent success rate up to 69 per cent in the second set, and 66 per cent in the decider.

The American had to come from a break down in the second set to keep her tournament alive, and she will now face Canada's Bianca Andreescu in the third round.

Meanwhile, fellow United States star Coco Gauff was too good for Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto, winning 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 to book a third-round clash with another Italian, Martina Trevisan, who earned her way there with a 6-0 4-6 6-3 win over Katerina Siniakova.

The other two seeded Americans were also successful, with 13th seed Madison Keys coming from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6 6-4 6-3, and 14th seed Danielle Collins repelled the challenge of Magdalena Frech 6-3 6-4.

There were positive signs for former world number five Eugenie Bouchard, who ended up losing, but showed she still has her talent by taking a set off world number 23 Jelena Ostapenko in a 7-5 2-6 6-1 result.

Russian pair Anna Kalinskaya and Liudmila Samsonova both emerged in three-set outings, with Kalinskaya outlasting Elise Mertens 6-4 0-6 7-5, while Samsonova upset world number four Aryna Sabalenka 6-4 2-6 6-2.

World number 12 Veronika Kudermetova kept her WTA Finals hopes alive with a 6-4 7-5 win over Donna Vekic, and the Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova ousted Colombia's Camila Osorio 6-3 6-1.

In the late window, Sloane Stephens eliminated Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-4 6-4, and top overall seed Paula Badosa retired due to injury after losing the first set 6-2 against Victoria Azarenka.

Victoria Azarenka has booked a clash with the top seed of the Guadalajara Open after defeating Elina Avanesyan 6-4 6-2 in Monday's opening round.

In the last event of the season before the WTA Finals, Belarus' Azarenka was too strong with her return game for her Russian opponent, winning 53 per cent (32-of-60) of her return points while capitalising on five-of-seven break point opportunities to earn a shot at world number eight Paula Badosa.

While Azarenka has no chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals – with only the top-eight players in the rankings making it through – Belinda Bencic is one of the players who can sneak in with a great result this week.

Needing to make the semi-finals to have a chance, she got off on the right foot with a 7-5 6-7 (10-12) 6-3 win against Leylah Fernandez in her opening match.

Petra Kvitova can also qualify if she reaches the final, and she started without issue, defeating Bernarda Pera 6-3 7-5.

Ekaterina Alexandrova had an outside chance of claiming a WTA Finals spot if she won this tournament, but she was the victim of the day's biggest upset, falling 6-4 7-6 (10-8) to Camila Osorio.

At 22nd in the world, Liudmila Samsonova is the lowest-ranked player in the field with a mathematical chance at qualification, but she is a step closer after handling Kaia Kanepi 6-1 7-5.

Despite Fernandez's earlier loss, it was a strong day for the Canadians, with Bianca Andreescu proving too good in her 6-2 6-4 victory against Jil Teichmann, and Rebecca Marino also only needed two sets to defeat Ann Li 6-2 7-6 (7-2).

China's Lin Zhu came from a set behind to beat France's Alize Cornet 3-6 6-3 6-4, while Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk had a much quicker result in her 6-1 6-3 triumph over Belarus' Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

World number 34 Elise Mertens had no problems in one of the biggest mismatches of the day as she defeated world number 185 Asia Muhammad 6-3 6-2, and Sloane Stephens needed only 54 minutes to advance 6-0 6-2 past Linda Fruhvirtova.

In the last match of the night, Mexico's top chance Fernanda Contreras Gomez was eliminated by Alja Tomljanovic 6-2 6-1.

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