Swiatek and Sabalenka storm into next round of Dubai Tennis C’ships


Iga Swiatek in action against Leylah Fernandez during their Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship match. AFP

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

World No.1 Iga Swiatek cruised into the next round after brushing aside US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-1, 6-1 at the Dubai Duty Free (DDF) Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

The three-time Grand Slam winner from Poland took 72 minutes to beat her Canadian rival at the Centre Court.

Arriving here after winning the second consecutive Qatar title two days ago, the top seed made a perfect start and won the first four straight games to pocket the first set. Later, Swiatek saved two break points in the second set and never looked back.

“It wasn’t that easy for sure. It was much tougher than the score said,” Swiatek said, calling the courts a similar speed to the Australian Open.

“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.”

The reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 2, Aryna Sabalenka, required just 59 minutes to seal her spot in the next round following a 6-0, 6-1 win over Lauren Davis, stretching her winning run in 2023 to 12 matches.

Earlier, top seeds tumbled for a second successive day as fourth seed Caroline Garcia, sixth-seeded Maria Sakkari, and No.7 seed Daria Kasatkina made early exits.

Sakkari bowed out after losing 6-1, 6-2 to Karolina Pliskova. Picking up where she left off in her first-round match – where she lost just five games – Pliskova, a runner-up here in 2015 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, made light work of her Greek opponent, winning in just 69 minutes to book a place in round three.

“I’m really happy with the way I played,” said Pliskova.

“It’s not every day you beat the sixth seed 6-1, 6-2! I also played a really good match in the first round, so I’m happy with my tennis.

“I’ve had many good tournaments in the past here. I missed last year so I’m happy to be back. I have my family with me, my sister with her baby, so I feel quite relaxed.

 “I can’t look too far ahead though because my game can go up and down fast, so we’ll just look at the next match.

“With this one, I knew if I played well I could win, so I’ll hopefully carry that forward.”

Madison Keys continued her fantastic form. Fresh from dropping just two games in her first-round victory, the American ace needed just 1hr 48mins to beat World No.5 Garcia 7-5, 6-4.

The pair traded early breaks before Keys broke again in game 11 and held on to take the first set. Keys, the 2017 US Open finalist, broke Garcia again in game three of the second set and never looked back, serving out the match.

“Caroline is such an amazing player and had a great end to the year and has been playing at her top level,” said a delighted Keys.

“I knew I was going to have to play well, especially in that second set, take care of my serve and I’m happy to get the win.

Daria Kasatkina was another of the top seeds to tumble. The No.7 seed was no match for Czech opponent Barbora Krejcikova, who triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

There was better news for the top seeds later in the afternoon as No.3 seed Jessica Pegula navigated a tricky Centre Court clash with Viktoriya Tomova to book her place in the third round. American Pegula, ranked No.3 in the world, burst out of the blocks, taking the first set 6-2, but qualifier Tomova hit back, breaking Pegula three times to win the set 7-5 and take the match to a decider.

Clearly annoyed by her second-set performance, Pegula stormed back in the third, taking the first five games before closing out the match 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. “It was tough out there – I’m exhausted now, but happy to get the win,” said Pegula after her victory. “I’ll get plenty of recovery and be ready to go tomorrow.

 Jessica Pegula is through to the third round but not before a mid-match wobble. The American third seed looked set for a breezy afternoon when she led Viktoriya Tomova 6-2 but soon found herself trailing 5-1 in the second set.

Despite clawing back to 5-5, Pegula lost the set but regrouped well to blast past the Bulgarian world No 99 for a 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 victory.

Elsewhere, the No.15 seed Victoria Azarenka – a two-time Grand Slam winner – battled back from a set down to beat Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).


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