Sabalenka starts quest in Tianjin with Kenin victory

Still mathematically alive on the Porsche Race to Singapore in her bid to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presentedby SC Global, No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka outlasted American teenager Sofia Kenin in the first round of the Tianjin Open on Tuesday, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-0.
The Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open champion needs to win the International-level event, and also needs help in the form of other results from Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens to keep her slim chances of qualifying alive, but took the first step that's in her hands in the opening round.

Aryna Sabalenka, Tianjin 2018 (Tianjin Open)
Sabalenka can keep her Singapore hopes alive by winning Tianjin - but she needs help. (Tianjin Open)
The World No.11 and 2017 finalist rallied from an early break down in the opening set, and also saved a trio of break points at 5-5 before winning the ensuing tiebreak.
Though she was stretched the distance after Kenin broke once early, and again late after failing to serve out the second set, the Belarusian responded to the teenager's challenge with aplomb: after breaking Kenin's serve in a lengthy opening game, Sabalenka dropped just four points in the final five games of the match.
Sabalenka advances to a second round meeting with Poland's Magda Linette, who defeated Evgeniya Rodina in her first match on Monday. 
Other results in the top half of the draw on Tuesday saw Great Britain's Katie Boulter upset No.8 seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-3, while Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky advanced after winning the first set when No.7 seed Danielle Collins retired due to injury.
It was the second retirement on the day in Tianjin, as qualifier Barbora Krejcikova advanced while leading 4-1 as Kateryna Kozlova could not continue their match, while another qualifier in Misaki Doi needed nearly two-and-a-half hours to defeat Yulia Putintseva, 6-0, 3-6, 7-6(6).