Ons Jabeur of Tunisia led a group of early winners into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships as main-draw matches kicked off on Sunday in the U.A.E.
31st-ranked Jabeur eased past Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 6-3, to reach the second round for the fourth time in her four main-draw showings at the event.
Jabeur, coming off a close loss to Karolina Pliskova in Doha last week, garnered her 10th career main-draw match victory in the Middle East with her 65-minute victory over World No.68 Siniakova.
Siniakova had won her first five encounters with Jabeur before the Tunisian at last turned the tables with a victory in Doha last year. Jabeur made it two in a row against Siniakova in Dubai on Sunday, converting four of her nine break points and slamming 16 winners, four more than the Czech.
Siniakova was also undone by 27 unforced errors in the match, as she fell to 0-3 in singles thus far in 2021.
Jabeur was helped along by fierce forehands in the opening frame, using that shot to break for the initial 3-1 lead. After a love hold for 5-2, Jabeur was assisted by a double fault from Siniakova on her second set point in the following game.
After falling behind an early break in the second set, Siniakova at last grabbed her only service break to tie up the clash at 2-2. But Jabeur took the initiative as both players charged to the net more frequently as the set wore on, reclaiming the break advantage at 4-2. Another strong forehand by Jabeur forced an error from Siniakova to convert her second match point and close out victory.
Earlier in the day on Centre Court, a pair of Russians claimed wins to also advance to the second round.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova earned a comeback victory over Wang Qiang, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, to notch the 20th Dubai main-draw match-win of her career.
Kuznetsova, a three-time Dubai finalist (2004, 2008, and 2011) is making her 13th appearance at Dubai, but her first showing at the event since 2016.
Former World No.2 Kuznetsova had to dig deep before outlasting Wang in two hours and 21 minutes. Wang served for the match at 5-4 in the decider, but Kuznetsova successfully broke back for 5-5, eventually winning the final three games of the affair to clinch the comeback win.
Next up for Kuznetsova will be a second-round match against No.1 seed Elina Svitolina.
Veronika Kudermetova followed on Centre Court by booking her spot in the second round with a 7-6(3), 6-2 triumph over fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
After dropping their first meeting, Pavlyuchenkova had won their two most recent clashes, which both came at the end of the 2019 season. This time, though, it was Kudermetova who got the better of Pavlyuchenkova after an hour and three-quarters, leveling their head-to-head at 2-2.
Kudermetova, who reached the final at the season-opening event in Abu Dhabi (losing to Aryna Sabalenka), converted four of her six break points on the day to snap a three-match losing streak dating back to her third-round loss to Simona Halep at the Australian Open.
Kudermetova will now face recent Adelaide finalist and No.6 seed Belinda Bencic in the second round.
Alizé Cornet prevented a perfect day for the Russians, though, as she moved past Daria Kasatina, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Court 1 to set up a second-round meeting with No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Stay tuned for more to come from Dubai!
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