Dubai: Second seed Karolina Pliskova slumped to a stunning 6-0, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Jessica Pegula in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday.
It was their second meeting in two weeks, with Pegula also coming out on top in Doha with an equally emphatic 6-3, 6-1 score, and the American secured a place in her second quarter-final in two weeks in just 53 minutes. While Pegula has flourished, Pliskova has now lost her last seven matches to opponents ranked outside of the top 20.
Pliskova had struggled on Wednesday to overcome Anastasija Sevastova in a three-set battle that stretched to more than two hours, and that might have played a part in her defeat. She produced seven double faults, made 26 unforced errors and won just a third of the points against her dominant opponent.
In contrast, Pegula had breezed through her two earlier matches this week, giving up just three games in each, and her confident performance always had Pliskova on the back foot. Her win over sixth-ranked Pliskova follows an equally impressive victory over world number five Elina Svitolina at the recent Australian Open, where she reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
“I think I didn’t give away a lot of free points”, said Pegula. “I think serve and first ball return is what I think I did really well and I didn’t make a lot of errors. That’s what I wanted to do and I think I just stuck with my game plan pretty well and was able to execute it.
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“I definitely think I’ve surprised myself a little bit with how well I’ve done because it’s hard to follow up a breakthrough. But once I got through qualification in Doha I started to relax a little bit more. It was tough mentally to do that after playing on Rod Laver (Arena) in the quarter-finals of a Slam and now I’m on a side court and playing three rounds just to get into the tournament. It was a weird feeling, but I think I’ve settled in a little bit now and happy that I’ve been able to back up those results.”
“It is often difficult for a player to follow up a successful tournament by also doing well in the next, a quality that only the best players manage to achieve,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Jessica Pegula has done that not once, but twice, with a wonderful run at the Australian Open followed not only with another in Doha but with more fine performances this week. We look forward to seeing how she does in the quarter-finals.”
Yet another seed fell as 2019 champion and No. 5 seed Belinda Bencic was defeated 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 by tournament wild card Anastasia Potapova. Bencic made a fine recovery after dropping the opening five games of the match to pull level at 5-5 in the third set, only to see her teenage opponent break to lead 6-5 and serve out the match.
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka avoided the growing list of upsets this week by taking just 64 minutes to sweep aside 15th seed Anett Kontaveit, closing out the match with her sixth ace. And Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had fought hard this week to win three-set battles over Qiang Wang and top seed and two-time former champion Elina Svitolina, had her run ended by Barbora Krejcikova, losing 6-3, 6-2.
“There has been more drama today and another top seed has suffered defeat,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “Although we are sorry to see Karolina Pliskova fail to progress to the latter stages, we welcome and appreciate the fine performance of Jessica Pegula, who is celebrating her debut in Dubai in spectacular fashion.”