Aryna Sabalenka blows big lead versus Donna Vekic after shocking collapse

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© Getty Images Sport – Christopher Pike

Aryna Sabalenka suffered a shock loss in her first post-Australian Open win match as the Belarusian was up by a set and a break before losing in three sets to Donna Vekic.

Sabalenka, the second-seeded player in Dubai, had a 7-6 (5) 2-0 lead over Vekic before suffering a shocking collapse and the 31st-ranked Croatian coming back to win 6-7 (5) 6-3 6- 0.

Before coming to Dubai, Sabalenka went 11-1 in Australia as she finished as runner-up at the Brisbane International before winning the Australian Open. Although this was Sabalenka’s first tournament since the Australian Open, the Belarusian was widely considered among the top favorites for the Dubai title along with Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport – Christopher Pike

How Sabalenka lost to Vekic?

After finding herself down by an early break, Sabalenka responded by breaking Vekic in the fourth and eighth games to take a 5-3 lead. But then, Sabalenka started struggling to close out the set as the second seed failed to serve out for the first set in the ninth game before also missing out on three consecutive set points on Vekic’s serve in the 12th game.

But after missing out on a few chances to win the first set, Sabalenka won five consecutive points in the first-set tie-break to open a 5-2 lead before converting her sixth set point to win the opener.

After winning a tight first set, Sabalenka also started the second set with an early break and a 2-0 lead. Then, Sabalenka’s collapse starts as the Belarusian loses 12 of the next 13 games and Vekic completes a major comeback.

Donna Vekic
Donna Vekic© Getty Images Sport – Christopher Pike

Vekic, who now owns a 6-2 head-to-head against Sabalenka, admitted she didn’t expect much before facing the 2024 Australian Open champion.

“I didn’t have big expectations coming to Dubai. Told my coach that I’m taking this week as half holidays. I can tell you I spent more time on the beach than on the court. Maybe that’s a good way going forward, ” Vekic said after beating Sabalenka.

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