Elina Svitolina begins her bid to make history at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Defending champion Elina Svitolina was given a helping hand as she began her bid to make tournament history at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, when Tunisian star Ons Jabeur was forced to retire during their second round match on Tuesday.
Sixth seeded Svitolina had struggled to gain the upper hand against a determined opponent, but towards the end of the opening set Jabeur received lengthy treatment for a right shoulder injury. The match then no longer became a contest and Svitolina progressed 7-6 4-0, and afterwards she admitted that she was not surprised at the challenge she had received.
“Well, we already played against each other, and it was 7-6 in the third,” said Svitolina. “I played against her in juniors, so obviously I know she’s a good player. She can deliver a good match. That’s why I think, yeah, it was kind of expectable because she played already doubles, played singles. She got a little bit used to the conditions. I know I won lots of matches here previous years, but still I needed some time.”
Svitolina acknowledged that she has extra incentive to succeed this week as she attempts to make tournament history by becoming the first WTA player to win the tournament for three consecutive years.
“Well, this is a big motivation for me here,” she said. “Today I didn’t really feel like in a match mood. I don’t know why. Was a bit struggling. (But) when I was 0-2 down, I told myself, ‘C’mon, you are here to make history of the tournament’.”
“We congratulate Elina Svitolina on her victory and look forward to seeing if she can win the title here for a third time,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Her task is an intimidating one as she next faces Garbine Muguruza, and she could then potentially meet world No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the quarter-finals.”
Second seed Petra Kvitova needed two hours 34 minutes to overcome the challenge of fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova, eventually pulling through 6-7 6-4 6-4.
“Even (though) she doesn’t have great results this year, I know she can really play well,” said Kvitova. “We practiced here before the tournament. She played very good in the Fed Cup. She was serving very well today. Was tough to break her.
“Even (though) I lost the tiebreak, I was really fighting in the first set to get it done, then the tiebreak was just a little bad from my side. But I started again pretty well. I won my first two games in the second set. It was really helpful for me for the mentally. Then I’m glad that I was able to hold my serve until the chances in the third.”
Former French Open and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza defeated Saisai Zheng 7-5 6-2, but there were two major casualties as 2018 runner-up Daria Kasatkina was defeated 6-3 2-6 6-4 by Sofia Kenin, and seventh seed Kiki Bertens fell 6-2 4-6 7-6 to Viktoria Kuzmova after holding a match point at 6-5 in the tiebreak.
“Today has been full of exciting battles which have seen both our defending champion Elina Svitolina and recent Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova struggling to win their opening matches,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “There will no doubt be many more close battles in the days ahead and we can look forward to some thrilling contests.”
The WTA event continues until 23rd February and features many of the world’s top players, including world No. 1, Australian Open and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, 2019 Sydney champion and Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova, two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, and 2019 Brisbane winner and Australian Open semi-finalist Karolina Pliskova.