Kristina Mladenovic returns to Cristina Dinu during their match at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Tuesday.
Second-seeded Kristina Mladenovic ensured no further casualties following the early departure of defending champion Daria Snigur on the second day of the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being held at the Habtoor Grand Resort, on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old French girl, a long-time resident of Dubai, has been struggling with injuries and form in recent times that have forced her to pull out of her last two of three tournaments in Europe.
On Tuesday, she showed signs of a similar meltdown despite leading 5-1 in the opening set. But she held her nerve to win in the first set tie-breaker and advance to a second round meeting against Thai girl Peangtarn Plipuech – a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 winner against India’s Karman Kaur Thandi.
Mladenovic defeated Romania’s Cristina Dinu 7-6 (4), 6-2.
“That wasn’t easy out there at all. Believe me, I am just happy to get through to the next round. It’s yet another day of play for me,” Mladenovic admitted.
“This has been a difficult period for me following retirements at the last two tournaments. But today, I managed to turn things around, and hopefully, this will stay along with me,” she added.
Mladenovic had ended a five-year wait for a professional singles title with victory on the ITF World Tennis Tour at the W60 Caserta tournament in Italy in June, where she defeated local girl Camilla Rosatello 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3).
This was the French girl’s first singles triumph at any level since she won her lone Tour-level title at St Petersburg in 2017.
However, the seven-time doubles Grand Slam champion has struggled of late while retiring hurt in two of the last three tournaments that she has participated in. The last time she played, Mladenovic quit while trailing fellow French girl Carole Monnet 1-6, 0-2 at the W80 in Valencia in the second half of November.
“It’s been a tough few weeks of late, and I am simply too glad to advance here and give myself the opportunity of getting past this injury period with this win,” Mladenovic related.
Joining her in the second round will be top seed Diana Shnaider – an effortless 6-3, 6-2 winner against Natalia Szabanin on Monday – along with third seed Magdalena Frech, who disposed of Bibiane Schoofs 6-2, 6-4, on Tuesday.
Elsa Jacquemot became the second French girl to enter the second round after brushing aside Russia’s Ekaterina Reyngold 6-3, 6-1.
Defending champion and fourth seed Daria Snigur had been the first major casualty after she bowed out of the tournament on the opening day following a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Rebecca Sramkova.
Fifth seed Viktoria Kuzmova also advanced to the next round with a swift 6-1, 7-5 win against 2006 champion Kateryna Bondarenko, while sixth seed Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan wilted 1-6, 1-6 against qualifier, Maria Timofeeva.
Play will continue on Wednesday with matches starting off at 10.30 am at the Habtoor Grand Resort.
First held in 1998 and played at the Habtoor Grand Resort Autograph Collection, this tournament is classified as an ITF Women’s Circuit competition.
The competition started off as a $25,000 ITF event before being raised to a $75,000 tournament between 1999 to 2015.
Since 2016, the annual fixture has been upgraded to a $100,000-plus hospitality event on the ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour, attracting some of the top champions alongside a fast-improving breed of promising young stars.
Created by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, the annual tournament has managed to live up to its hype by encouraging the development of women’s tennis in the UAE and the region, while raising the profile of the sport across the Arab world.