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Tennis-Sabalenka fights back to avoid upset

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By Christian Radnedge

LONDON (Reuters) – Second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus recovered from a poor first set to beat Varvara Gracheva 2-6 7-5 6-2 on Friday and reach the third round at Wimbledon.

The Australian Open champion struggled badly in the opening set, with Gracheva, representing France for the first time since switching nationality from Russia last month, moving around with ease in the sunshine on Court One.

Sabalenka, 25, sent a forehand wide of the tramlines in the sixth game, one of 16 unforced errors in the set, to hand an early break to the 22-year-old, who saved three break points to extend her lead before breaking again to take the set.

A huge upset looked on the cards before Sabalenka found her rhythm midway through the second set, executing a cute drop shot to seal a hold to love. A huge roar after a hold at 5-5 powered her through to breaking Gracheva and serving out the set to level the match.

An early break in the decider swung the momentum in favour of Sabalenka, who had sharpened her returns and was finding the corners of the court with her powerful backhand.

The 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist secured another break after a double fault from Gracheva and smashed an ace down the middle to complete her comeback and set up a third-round clash with Russian Anna Blinkova.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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