Dubai | Swiatek and Sabalenka are quick off the mark as Garcia, Sakkari and Kasatkina exit

Both Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka opened their accounts at the Dubai Duty Free Championships with routine wins, losing just 3 games between them as they cruised into the 3rd-round with wins over Leylah Fernandez and Lauren Davis respectively, while fellow Top 10 players Caroline Garcia, Maria Sakkari and Daria Kasatkina all suffered upsets.

I think the only thing why I won Australian Open is because I was focusing on myself. I didn’t really think about all the expectations, all the things happening around, this is Grand Slam, all this stuff. I was just keep telling myself that I have to bring my level on court, I have a lot of chances to win the match, so, yeah, I’ll just try focus on myself. Aryna Sabalenka

Swiatek, the World No 1 from Poland and the top seed here, was on court for 72 minutes as she routed the young Canadian, 6-1 6-1, while Sabalenka, the Belarusian World No 2, demolished the American, 6-0 6-1, in 59 minutes.

Less than 3 days after rolling to the Qatar TotalEnergies Open title in Doha, Swiatek improved her record to 2-0 against Fernandez, winning 70% of her first-serve points and 65% of points on returning the Canadian’s first delivery.

She won the same margin of points on return of the Fernandez second serve, while winning 56% of her own second-serve points, and she saved 2 of the 3 break points she faced as she converted 6 chances on the Canadian’s serve.

“It wasn’t that easy, for sure,” said Swiatek. “It was much tougher than the score said.

“In the second set, I needed to go a level up. I didn’t have much time to get used to the conditions, but I’m just happy I could play solid tennis.”

Swiatek won the first 4 games of Tuesday’s encounter, and avoided an early pitfall in the second set.

Serving at 2-1, and up a break, the 21-year old Pole saved 2 break points in the 4th game that would have seen Fernandez level the match for the first time, but Swiatek rose to the occasion against a dangerous left-handed opponent, as she adjusted herself to the faster court than the one she had won on last week.

Swiatek is looking to reach the quarter-finals in Dubai for the first time in her career when she plays 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova on Wednesday, the Russian having advanced to the 3rd round Zheng Qinwen withdrew from the event ahead of their match due to a stomach illness.


Aryna Sabalenka dropped just 1 game to Lauren Davis to advance in Dubai

© Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

Sabalenka, the 2nd seed, came through her one-sided match against Davis with little difficulty, and extended her winning streak to 12 matches for the year.

The 24-year old Belarusian has yet to lose a match this season, and is playing her first tournament since she won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month.

Davis, the World No 49 won her first singles title since 2017 in Hobart in January, but, on Tuesday, she was dispatched by Sabalenka, who had 19 winners to the American’s 4.

Sabalenka did not face a break point until the final game of the match, but she held serve anyway to wrap up the win.

Two of Sabalenka’s 12 career titles have come in the Middle East, at 2020 Doha and 2021 Abu Dhabi, and she is seeking the hat-trick with a first title in Dubai.

For several days after her career-altering Australian Open victory, Sabalenka remained in disbelief.

“Then for the next week I was like, `Oh, my God, I did it — yes, it happened,’” she said earlier in the week. “I was having this conversation in my head: It’s so amazing. Now I have even more — how to say…

“I want more. Motivation, this is the word. More motivation to work hard, just to feel it again.”

After winning in Melbourne, Sabalenka flew directly to Dubai for a few days off and then started a solid training block.

“I think the only thing why I won Australian Open is because I was focusing on myself,” Sabalenka added. “I didn’t really think about all the expectations, all the things happening around, this is Grand Slam, all this stuff.

“I was just keep telling myself that I have to bring my level on court, I have a lot of chances to win the match, so, yeah, I’ll just try focus on myself.”


Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko cruised past 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova and will meet Aryna Sabalenka for a place in the quarter-finals

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

Sabalenka’s next match will be against the defending Dubai champion, the No 13 seed from Latvia, Jelena Ostapenko, who cruised past 17-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-2 6-0, in under an hour to win her 7th straight match at the event.

The Latvian, who faced only a single break point, is aiming to become only the 4th woman to defend her title in Dubai.

“Obviously the tournament, the draw is very strong,” she said. “Of course it would be amazing to win another title here, but I will just take it easy and take one match at a time.”

The former Roland Garros champion won 78% of her first-serve points to Fruhvirtova’s 56%, and while both struggled to score off their second serves, and Ostapenko was able to win only 35% of her second-serve points, she finished with 89% points on returning the 17-year-old’s second serve.

The only previous match Ostapenko has played against Sabalenka went to the Belarusian, 4 years ago in Zhengzho.


Jessica Pegula dropped the middle set but prevailed against qualifier Viktoriya Tomova on Tuesday in Dubai

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

Meanwhile, American Madison Keys upset Garcia, the 4th-seeded from France, 7-5 6-4, while Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic crushed 6th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-1 6-2, and the Czech Barbora Krejcikova knocked out 7th-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-4 4-6 7-5.

Krejcikova ousted Kasatkina after saving a handful of match points before turning the match into a win for herself.

3rd-seeded Jessica Pegula, who lost to Swiatek in the Doha final, got past Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova, 6-2 5-7 6-1, and her doubles partner and fellow American, Coco Gauff, the 5th seed, came away with a comfortable win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-0 6-4, win in just over an hour, and will now move on to face Australian Open finalist Elena Rybakina in the next round.

18-year-old Gauff dominated from the start and broke 3 times in the opening set, which she wrapped up superbly in just 29 minutes.

The 28-year-old right-hander from Minsk, though, then showed some steel as she forced a break of serve of her own, getting on the scoreboard at the 9th time of asking, but Gauff carved out 3 more break chances and built a 3-1 lead on the second one.

As Sasnovich began playing her best tennis, breaking serve to love and holding her serve to level up the set at 4-4, Gauff, again, set-up 3 break points at 5-4, and took the match when the Belarusian netted to move through after a scare.


Coco Gauff suffered a brief scare but got past Aliaksandra Sasnovich in straight sets to take on Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarters on Wednesday

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

8th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland also survived a scare and needed 3 hours and 27 minutes to overcome Marta Kostyuk from the Ukraine, 6-7(7) 7-6(5) 6-4, battling back from a set and a break down in their marathon encounter to reach the Round of 16.

Bencic has won 15 tour-level matches this season, which leads the WTA Tour, and has already picked up titles at Adelaide International 2 and Abu Dhabi, but on Tuesday, Kostyuk, the World No 55, captured the first set in a tiebreak, and broke the Swiss in the opening game of the second.

The Olympic champion, though, clawed her way back and levelled the match with her own tiebreak win.

The first 4 games of the decider went against serve before Bencic took control for good with a break for 4-3, although she nearly let her lead slip when serving for the match at 5-4, but she erased 2 break points in that game before collecting yet another win.

Bencic will meet Karolina Muchova for a place in the quarter-finals after the Czech saw off Romanian Sorana Cirstea, 6-4 7-6(4).

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka also had to battle hard to edge past American Amanda Anisimova, 4-6 6-4 7-6(5), and will take on Keys next, while Kazakh Rybakina was a 7-5 6-2 winner over Czech Marie Bouzkova, and 12th-seeded Petra Kvitova, also from the Czech Republic, dispatched Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan, 6-4 6-4, and will meet compatriot Krejcikova in the Round of 16.

Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in the third round. Kalinina backed up her upset of 10th seed Veronika Kudermetova in the first round by defeating her compatriot, qualifier Yastremska, 5-7 6-2 6-3, and will meet Pliskova next.


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