Jabeur retires in Moscow as Halep and Kontaveit advance

Ons Jabeur lost in the semi-finals of Indian Wells on Friday and immediately flew to Moscow in pursuit of points to enable her to qualify for the WTA Finals but she retired in her opening match to Ekaterina Alexandrova on Tuesday, while Simona Halep and Anett Kontaveit both cruised through to the second round at the VTB Kremlin Cup with wins over Anastasia Potapova and Katerina Siniakova respectively.

I honestly did not expect Andy Murray or Navratilova or Billie Jean King to tweet about me. It’s unbelievable... Being recognised by legends, honestly, it just gives me, even more, the power to work harder and be like them one day, maybe, a Grand Slam champion. Ons Jabeur

A disappointed Jabeur, the No 5 seed in Moscow, pulled out of her match while trailing 6-1, 1-0, suffering with a right elbow injury.

A Kremlin Cup finalist in 2018, the Tunisian has won 48 matches this year, the most of any player on the WTA Tour this season, and makes her Top 10 for the first time as the World No 8 this week.

The retirement is a set-back to Jabeur’s hopes of qualifying for Guadalajara next month as she is currently 9th in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals, one spot off the top 8 places.

On a lighter note, Jabeur has been lauded by the likes of Andy Murray, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, who have been tweeting about her.

“It means a lot,” Jabeur told Arab News recently. “I honestly did not expect Andy Murray or Navratilova or Billie Jean King to tweet about me. It’s unbelievable.

“It just shows how important it is to me to achieve this.

“Being recognised by legends, honestly, it just gives me, even more, the power to work harder and be like them one day, maybe, a Grand Slam champion.”

The Tunisian continues to trail-blaze into the history books, becoming the first Arab woman to win a WTA title in Birmingham earlier this year, and now making it into the Top 10, a first on both the women’s and men’s tours.

Ekaterina Alexandrova extended her record against Ons Jabeur to 5-1 after the No 5 seed retired in Moscow

© Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Alexandrova, ranked 37, came into the match with a dominant 4-1 head-to-head lead over her, but they had not faced off since 2018, and Jabeur was on the best run of her life.

The Russian, however, swept through the opener before the Tunisian deemed herself unable to continue and, despite the retirement, it will count as the 5th Top 10 win of Alexandrova’s career.

“From the first games it was clear that she is not at 100%,” Alexandrova told the media afterwards. “Of course, this is easily explainable, because she had a difficult flight from America, the conditions here are different.

“Moreover, she had played many matches before Kremlin Cup, so we can say that this was expected.”

The Russian cracked a return winner to earn the first break at 3-1, then staved off 4 break points in the next game before consolidating for 4-1.

Striking the ball powerfully, Alexandrova fired off 13 winners in the opener as she moved ahead by a double-break, eventually completing the opening frame with her 5th ace of the day.

Another break of serve gave Alexandrova the immediate advantage in the second, when Jabeur retired.

Next up for Alexandrova will be a meeting with Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in the second round after the World No 57 upset 28th-ranked Daria Kasatkina from Russia on Monday.

Simona Halep opened her Kremlin Cup campaign with a convincing win over Anastasia Potapova on Tuesday

© Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Halep, the 8th seed, took 90 minutes to score her 6-1 6-4 win over Russian wild-card Potapova in the Romanian’s first appearance in Moscow since she won the title here in 2013.

She went up an early break to take a 2-0 lead in an opening set in which 4 of the first 6 games went to deuce, but Potapova broke straight back.

Halep earned 2 breaks to take a 5-1 lead before serving out the set to love.

In the second, 4 of the first 6 games then went against serve ,after which Halep converted the first of her 2 break points to take a 5-4 lead.

As Halep served for the match at 5-4, Potapova earned herself 3 break points but the former World No 1 saved them all, and converted on her 2nd match point to secure her spot in the second round, where she will face World No 32 Veronika Kudemertova.

Halep has not won more than 3 consecutive matches since returning in August from a 3-month layoff with a calf injury that kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon.

Russia’s Kudemertova came back from one set down to beat compatriot Oksana Selekmetheva, who was wild-carded into qualifying, 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4, after 2 hours 20 minutes.

Anett Kontaveit got past Katerina Siniakova in straight sets and will meet Andrea Petkovic in round two

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit was the only other seed to win her first-round match on Tuesday after cruising past Czech Katerina Siniakova, 6-3 6-3, in an hour 13 minutes.

Kontaveit, who has had a good run of form winning the titles in Cleveland and Ostrava, takes on Andrea Petkovic next after the former Top 10 German advanced when Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko retired with the match score standing at 2-6 6-0 2-0 Ret.

The World No 20, who inherited the No 9 seed slot after 6th-seed Angelique Kerber withdrew from the tournament due to illness, improved to 4-1 against the 50th-ranked Siniakova with the win.

Kontaveit has now won 17 of her last 19 matches in a run that saw her defeat defending champion Bianca Andreescu en route to the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals in Indian Wells last week.

Meanwhile, in the last match of Day 2, Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic eliminated 7th-seeded Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, 6-4 6-4, to set up a meeting with Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in the next round.

Earlier, another Czech, Tereza Martincova got past Romanian lucky loser Irina Bara, 6-0 7-5, after an hour and 19 minutes to set up a second round encounter with Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza, the World No 5 and 2nd-seed, on Wednesday.

Martincova, who is at a new career-high ranking of 51 this week, took an hour and 19 minutes to defeat Bara.



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