DUBAI: The star-studded WTA1000 field at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Championships delivered drama aplenty on Monday evening as a series of powerful displays, surprise defeats and inspired performances thrilled spectators at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
After a handful of marathon clashes earlier in the day on center court, ninth seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the reigning Wimbledon champion and a losing finalist at this year’s Australian Open, defeated Canada’s Bianca Andreescu 6-3, 6-4 under floodlights and moonlight to advance to the round of 32 (R32).
“I’m happy that I managed to win with a few ups and downs in the second set,” said Rybakina, a beaten finalist in Dubai three years ago. “I had to focus, so overall I am happy that I managed to win. I want to win every match I play on court. I’m trying to do the work with my team to improve every match.”
In the day’s penultimate match on center court, Jelena Ostapenko, the defending women’s champion, 2017 French Open winner and this year’s 13th seed in Dubai, stormed past Ukrainian Katarina Zavatska without surrendering a breakpoint in a routine 6-1, 6-4 win.
“It’s great to be back here, I played some amazing tennis last year and I enjoy playing in Dubai — I love the tournament and the city. The crowd is amazing and I’m enjoying my tennis,” Ostapenko said.
Elsewhere in the women’s round of 64 (R64), two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka, the 15th seed in Dubai, dug deep to dispatch Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 7-5, while the US’s Shelby Rogers defeated compatriot Claire Liu in straight sets on court 1. Liu, who entered the draw as a lucky loser following the withdrawal of 16th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova on Sunday evening, could not compete with Rogers’ consistent baseline play and succumbed 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles action on day two
In the women’s doubles R32 match on Court 2, seventh seeds Zhaoxuan Yang and Vera Zvonareva made light work of the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova and Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia with a 6-1, 6-1 victory. The doubles loss ended Haddad Maia’s tournament, after a three-and-a-half-hour singles match defeat to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea earlier in the day.
Elsewhere, sixth seeds Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Brazil’s Luisa Stefani were overcome in a titanic match tiebreak to fall 1-6, 6-3, 11-9 to the US’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, whose attention now moves to facing world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the women’s singles on Tuesday, while Romania’s Monica Niculescu and Belgium’s Kimberley Zimmermann battled from a set down to edge out the Czech Republic’s Linda Fruhvirtova and Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in a nail-biting 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 thriller.
Finally, top-seeded doubles duo Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, who received a bye in R32, thrilled a packed court 3 grandstand as they moved menacingly into the quarterfinals with a gutsy 4-6, 7-6, 10-2 win over Japan’s Miya Kato and Indonesia’s Aldila Sutjiadi.
Grab your seats
Tickets for the 31st Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are on sale at dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com. Tickets are also available at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium box office between 9am and 9pm daily. The championships starts with the 23rd staging of the WTA event, which runs until Feb. 25, before the 31st staging of the ATP Tour 500 tournament from Feb. 26 to March 4. Both events carry equal prize money.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organized by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.