Dubai First Round: From Routine To Rollercoaster

Ons Jabeur (photo: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships)

DUBAI/WASHINGTON, March 8, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Thirty-first-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia was among the group of seven first-round winners safely through to the second round of the first WTA 1000-series event of the season, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which began in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. Her 6-2, 6-3 win over the Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova was fairly routine, done in an economical 62 minutes. It contrasted to American wild card Coco Gauff, whose nail-biter later in the day after sundown took over two and a-half hours to decide its outcome.

Coming into her first-round match, Jabeur had lost a second-round heartbreaker at the Qatar Total Open in Doha against another Czech, World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 on Wednesday night. The loss smarted and Sunday afternoon, Jabeur made sure she didn’t repeat her past shortcomings.

After beating the 68th-ranked Siniakova, during her post-match virtual interview session with international media, Jabeur said she was happy with her win. “I just wanted to play my game no matter the outcome.

“I’m playing good. I like the conditions here, so hopefully [it] will continue this way,” Jabeur continued. “To be honest, I felt that more last week in Doha, and honestly, no one put any pressure [on me]. I just put pressure on myself because I want to win so bad.”

Jabeur served four aces and struck 16 winners She won 69 percent of her service points and broke Siniakova four times. The Czech committed 27 unforced errors.

“I am trying to take it like easy, whatever happens. Honestly, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time,” said Jabeur who could face No. 14 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the next round.

Meanwhile, in the featured evening match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, the 38th-ranked Gauff needed six match points to finally put away No. 33 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (8), in a two-hour and 38-minute rollercoaster of a ride, with the last set alone lasting 69 minutes. At 9-8 in the deciding-set tie break, Gauff finally prevailed after Alexandrova netted the eighth shot of the last rally of the match.

Gauff (9-4 in 2021) persevered through 12 double faults and had her service broken nine times. To her credit, Gauff broke Alexandrova seven times and saved two match points.

“There were times when we both could have thrown in the towel and gave up, but we both were mentally fighting,” Gauff told Tennis Tour Talk during her virtual press conference, when asked to pinpoint why she thought she won. “I think it’s just one of those that you’re happy that it’s over, and happy you fought through it.”

When asked what she learned from her win, Gauff, who turns 17 this Saturday – the same day as the Dubai final – said: “I think I learned that when I take the lead, I tend to get passive. I think I need to start being aggressive when I get the lead because that’s how I played to get the lead. I need to keep being aggressive instead of trying to push myself out.”

Other Sunday first-round winners included: No. 63 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who upset No. 16 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, ranked 25th, 6-2, 7-6 (4); No. 53 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who beat American Bernarda Pera, ranked 66th, 6-0, 6-3; France’s Alizé Cornet, ranked 54th, who defeated No. 75 Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1; No. 34 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who took out 41st-ranked fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6 (3), 6-2; and Russia’s No. 39 Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 winner over No. 35 Wang Qiang of China.

Krejcikova, who with Siniakova is seeded second in the doubles draw, was last to finish Sunday night. Her one hour and 45-minute victory was her third against a Top-50 opponent. She could meet the tournament’s No. 1 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the third round later this week.

Back injury sidelines Azarenka

World No. 14 Victoria Azarenka, who pulled out of last Friday’s Qatar Total Open semifinal in Doha citing a back injury suffered during her quarterfinal win over top seed Elina Svitolina, withdrew from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday. Her place in the draw was taken by lucky loser Martina Trevisan of Italy.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play in Dubai this week as it’s not the best decision for me health wise at the moment. I wish everyone a healthy and successful tournament, and hope to see you there next year.”

Federer: The season really starts for him at Wimbledon

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer sat for a virtual press conference in advance of this week’s ATP 250 ExxonMobil Open in Doha, which begins its main draw on Monday. Among many topics, Federer spoke about his expectations and goals for the season.

“I hope by Wimbledon I’m going to be 100 percent and then the season really starts for me. Until then, let’s see how it goes and I the season really starts for me. Until then let’s see how it goes and I might surprise myself.”

What they’re saying

Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, who is the No. 1 seed in this week’s WTA 250 Abierto Zapopan 2021 in Guadalajara, Mexico, told Tennis TourTalk, of her reaction to countryman Diego Schwartzman‘s title victory in Sunday’s Argentina Open in Buenos Aires: “I’m very happy for him.” On the success of the Cerundolo brothers, Juan Manuel and Francisco, she said: “What they are doing for our country is just amazing!”

What they’re writing

Reem Abulleil, who writes about tennis for the Abu Dhabi-based The National, has penned an insightful feature about 19-year-old Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, the reigning Roland Garros champion, who recently lifted the trophy at the Adelaide International. Swiatek is seeded eighth at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

What they’re podcasting

What they’re sharing on social media

From Tennis Channel / Happy 61st Birthday, Ivan Lendl


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