Dubai Tennis Championships: Smooth sailing for top 


Barbora Krejcikova struggled to find her top form on the opening day of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But that did not stop the French Open champion from advancing to the next round as the Czech star beat wild card Caroline Garcia 6-4 7-6 on Monday.

Later in the evening, two-time Dubai champion Simona Halep held off a strong second set challenge from Alison Riske to earn a 6-2 6-4 victory and a place in the second round.

Halep, who is unseeded in this year’s draw, extended her head-to-head lead over Riske to 4-0.

The Romanian is showing signs of improvement after a injury-plagued 2021 season, having won the Melbourne Summer Set 1, one of the Australian Open warm-up events.

The graceful 30-year-old player will now face the winner of the game between number three seed Paula Badosa and Romanian compatriot Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Petra Kvitova and Iga Swiatek were the other top players to have won their opening matches on Monday.

Kvitova, a two-time Grand Slam winner, beat Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-0. The win sets up a potential showdown with top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the second round.

The world number two from Belarus will face Marta Kostyuk in her first match on Tuesday.

Swiatek, meanwhile, was too strong for Russian Daria Kasatkina, thrashing the former Dubai runner-up 6-1, 6-2.

Swiatek delivered a clinical performance against Kasatkina, who had been forced to withdraw from St. Petersburg last week due to a positive Covid-19 test.

The Pole won 80% of her first-serve points and repeatedly slammed forehand winners past her opponent. Kasatkina began to raise her level midway through the second set, playing her best and most aggressive tennis to grit out a hold for 2-3.

“Pretty confident because it’s not like I have a huge experience of playing here because I only played two matches last year. Every match is going to give me a lot,” Swiatek, the 20-year-old Polish star who won the 2020 French Open, said after her match.

“I love the fact that I could be aggressive and actually play the same way I did on practices because I was practicing really, really solid.”

Swiatek enjoyed playing in front of fans on Monday.

“I’m pretty glad this year we have fans. I could see Polish community coming. They’re always very supportive. It’s giving me, like, plenty of energy and motivation,” she said.

Jessica Pegula, who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals last month, earned a 6-4 6-4 win over her Dubai doubles partner, Cori Gauff.

Both players struggled to gain an advantage, but although 10 breaks of serve suggests a scrappy battle there were many excellent rallies that provided great entertainment. Drama and uncertainty lasted right to the end, as Pegula had to fight off two break points before sealing victory on her fourth match point. (with inputs from WTA)

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