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Sabalenka stunned by world number 134 Kenin in Rome opener

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka reacts after losing her round of 64 match against Sofia Kenin. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME - World number two and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka was knocked out of the Italian Open in her first match on Thursday, losing to 134th-ranked Sofia Kenin of the United States.

Sabalenka, the champion in Madrid last weekend, was stunned 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 by the 24-year-old Kenin whose career has been in freefall since her shock triumph at the 2020 Australian Open.

Kenin’s victory, secured in one hour and 38 minutes, was her first win in Rome since 2019.

It was also her first victory against a top-10 rival since shocking world number one Ashleigh Barty on her way to her Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne three years ago.

Sabalenka had not been defeated before the quarter-finals of any event this year and came into Rome as the match-win leader in 2023 with 29 match wins.

Former world number four Kenin will face Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Anna Blinkova, for a place in the fourth round. AFP