Rome: Aryna Sabalenka avoids shock defeat to qualifier in opening match scare

Sabalenka was down by a set against Katie Volynets but managed to recover and win in three sets.

by Dzevad Mesic
Rome: Aryna Sabalenka avoids shock defeat to qualifier in opening match scare
© Getty Images Sport - Mike Hewitt

Aryna Sabalenka has just survived a big scare at the Rome Open as the second-seeded Belarusian needed three sets to beat qualifier Katie Volynets in her opening match at Foro Italico. 

Sabalenka, who arrived in Rome in great spirits after finishing as runner-up in Madrid, entered the Volynets match as the absolute favorite. But after the first set, world No. 109 Volynets was up by a set and she was also threatening to open an early second-set break.

Fortunately for Sabalenka, she managed to avoid going down by a set and a break and ultimately found a way to come back and win 4-6 6-3 6-2 after nearly two and a half hours of play and reach the third round.

Aryna Sabalenka and Katie Volynets
Aryna Sabalenka and Katie Volynets© Getty Images Sport - Mike Hewitt

After surviving the Volynets scare in her Rome opener, Sabalenka will be playing against No. 32 seed Dayana Yastremska for a place in the round-of-16 at Foro Italico. Against Yastremska, Sabalenka has zero wins and three defeats but it should be noted that their last match came in 2019. 

How Sabalenka came back to beat Volynets?

After starting the match with a break, Sabalenka surprisingly suffered back-to-back breaks in the second and fourth games as Volynets opened a 3-1 lead. 

Down by a break, Sabalenka managed to quickly bounce back as she got the break back in the fifth game but later missed out on a break in the eighth game. After failing to go up by a break in the eighth game, Sabalenka dropped her serve in the ninth game as Volynets went 5-4 up before routinely serving out for the first set in the following game.

After losing the first set, Sabalenka was on the verge of also finding herself down by an early second-set break but managed to avoid that after saving five break points in the third game.

Sabalenka then managed to get the first break of the second set in the sixth game but got broken back instantly in the following game. However, Sabalenka was able to remain calm and composed as she got another break in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead before closing out the set on her serve in the following game.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Mike Hewitt

After forcing a third set, Sabalenka made a great start to the decider after claiming breaks in the first and fifth games for a comfortable 4-1 lead. Down by two breaks, Volynets managed to get one break back in the sixth game but Sabalenka broke the American again in the seventh game for a 5-2 lead before completing her comeback win in the next game. 

Aryna Sabalenka Katie Volynets