Dubai: Elina Svitolina became only the third woman to successfully defend her title in Dubai when she brushed aside the unseeded Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-0 in the singles final of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open late on Saturday.
Svitolina picked up the winner’s cheque of $651,347 (Dh2.39 million), while Kasatkina had to stay content with the runner-up cheque for $347,060 — the biggest prize money cheque the young Russian has received in a single tournament in her career so far.
Shaikh Hasher Al Maktoum, President, Tennis Emirates, presented the trophies along with Colm McLoughlin, Executive Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Tournament Director Salah Tahlak, Micky Lawler, President of WTA, and other officials.
Saturday’s match-up was only the third meeting between the two players with Svitolina enjoying a perfect 2-0 record against her younger opponent. Svitolina had won in three sets in New Haven in 2016 and then in straight sets in Toronto last year.
In winning the title, Svitolina joined a special club given that only two others have successfully defended their title here — Justine Henin (in 2004 and 2007) and Venus Williams (2010).
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect than this. It has been an unbelievable week for me and for Daria after all those long matches. Going into the final I knew it would be tricky, so much of my focus was to just keep the ball in play,” Svitolina said.
On a cool Saturday evening, Svitolina was smooth in her approach as she broke Kasatkina for the first time in the fifth game to eventually walk away with the set 6-4 in 43 minutes. In the second set, Kasatkina desperately tried to alter her game with added aggression, and while that yielded a few flashes of brilliance, the defending champion just cruised through for breaks in the first, third and fifth to register an emphatic drubbing of her 20-year-old opponent and pick up her eleventh career title.
Dubai has been a favoured hunting ground for Svitolina as she has reached the semi-final or further in all of her four Dubai appearances. Last year, she had defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final while coming in as the seventh seed. The Ukrainian had then been ranked No. 13. But that in fact proved to be a lucky charm as she made her top-10 debut in the rankings.
As a Premier 5 event, the Dubai title was the biggest win of Svitolina’s career to that point. She later went on win in Rome and Toronto in 2017. This year was the first time she has been the top seed at a WTA Premier event while attempting to defend a title for the second time in her career.
Elina Svitolina bt Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-0.
Chan, Yang ace doubles
Youth prevailed over experience as two 32-year-olds, Taiwanese Hsieh Su-Wei and Chinese Peng Shuai, wilted against the Chinese pairing of Chan Hao-Ching, 24, and Yang Zhaoxuan, 23, in the doubles final of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open on Saturday.
Going into the final, Hsieh had won 19 career doubles titles while Peng had 21 to her name to make up an impressive 40 between them. In comparison, Chan had just 13 to her name and Yang only two and the duo were playing in only their second tournament as a pair. That didn’t matter in the final analysis as Chan and Yang stayed composed to win 6-4, 2-6 0-1 (6) in 90 minutes to become the latest champions in Dubai.
“This is an unbelievable moment and we cannot believe we have won our first title against a very tough pair of players,” Chan told Gulf News.
“We’ve not decided what we want to do for the rest of the season. Right now we have to enjoy these few moments together and relish this win before we fly back home for a few days rest and then on to Indian Wells,” Yang said.
Chan and Yang got the first break in the fourth game on Hsieh’s serve to go 3-1 up. But Hsieh and Peng broke back in the very next game on Yang’s serve and then held for 3-3. The seasoned pair then got a second break on Chan’s serve as they took the set 6-4 in 43 minutes.
In the second set, it was all about the underdogs as Chan and Yang stayed aggressive throughout and got the breaks they needed to first lead 4-1 and then win the set 6-2. The match tie-breaker was close till midway at 5-5, when Chan and Yang came up with some scintillating shots to win it 10-7.
“The key lie in believing we could do it,” Chan said. “Our style of play suits both of us and that made a difference as well.”