By Our Correspondent | Opening Doorz Editorial | February 22, 2017
It was a day of upsets at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships yesterday. Karolina Pliskova, one of the hottest players on the WTA Tour this year failed to win her opening match as she was beaten in straight sets by Kristina Mladenovic 2-6, 4-6. WTA Finals Champion and Dubai third seed Dominika Cibulkova also bit the dust, losing 2-6, 6-4, 2-6 to Ekaterina Makarova, while French Open Champion and fifth seed Garbine Muguruza was forced to retire due to injury while trailing Kateryna Bondarenko 1-4.
Pliskova, seeded second, had won two titles already this season, including Doha immediately before she flew to Dubai. And the fact that she had little time to adjust to a faster surface played a significant part in her surprise defeat.
“It didn’t feel like my tennis at all,” said a disappointed Pliskova at the post-match conference. “The conditions here are totally different compared to Doha. I think it’s definitely a little bit faster. I just had one day for practice before I came into my first match,” she said. “The match was tough and obviously she played well. I think I was mentally there. I was still trying but I was just playing, like, really bad, so there is not much you can do about it. I still had a chance in the second set, but Kristina played some good points,” she added.
Kristina knew she had a good opportunity to spring an upset, but also that she faced an opponent who was full of confidence after such a good start to the season. “I could feel Karolina probably needed some time to adjust her shots, coming from Doha where it’s completely different conditions, said Kristina. “But in the same time, you know, she has obviously confidence from the beginning of the season and having also that win last week. I think the main thing (the key of the match for me) was I was very aggressive from the beginning on her serve. I was trying to put pressure on the return and be very aggressive and took advantage of her low percentage of first serve. I think I was lucky with that. She was not totally in the rhythm with her serve.”
Ekaterina Makarova had beaten Dominika Cibulkova at the Australian Open last month and that boosted her confidence going into this match. “When I was coming out I kind of believed that I can win, and I knew what to do, how to play, where to go. Yeah, I was kind of staying until the end and believing that I can beat her,” said Ekaterina, a Dubai quarter-finalist two years ago. “I was serving really good and at the important moments, I had good returns.”
Gabrine Muguruza looked very uncomfortable against Kateryna Bondarenko, and revealed that her injury began while she was in Doha. She doesn’t yet know exactly what the problem is, only that it is very painful.
“When I finished in Doha, I started to have a pain in my left Achilles,” she revealed. “The next morning was even more painful. I have been training here but on and off because of the pain. It was just hard for me to serve especially, and to move side to side today on the court. The doctor said maybe it’s just inflammation. I have to do some kind of MRI,” revealed the French champ.
Top seed Angelique Kerber avoided any more upsets by beating wild card Mona Barthel 6-4 6-3, and there were also victories for fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska who defeated qualifier Elise Mertens 6-3 6-2, and seventh seed Elina Svitolina who beat qualifier Saisai Zheng 7-5 6-1. Eighth seeded Elena Vesnina with a 6-2 7-5 win over Misaki Doi and 10th seeded Caroline Wozniacki who completed her 6-4 6-2 victory over Viktorija Golubic by winning the 22-point final game, were the other seeded players who kept the balance in check.
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers congratulated both, Kristina Mladenovic and Ekaterina Makarova on their victories, saying: “Both players are better known for their accomplishments in doubles. Mladenovic is the French Open champion and has been in the doubles final here the last two years, winning in 2015, and Makarova has reached the final of all four Grand Slams and won two titles. It is interesting to see them doing so well in singles too.”
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, “Once again the Championships is providing upsets and surprises, but there are still many top players in third round action today. Among those competing are former champions Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, and spectators will be able to watch a replay of the Olympics final as top seed Angelique Kerber takes on Rio champion Monica Puig.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.