Defending champion Garbine Muguruza crashed out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday on a day of upsets in Garhoud, with Arab star Ons Jabeur the only seed left standing.
The Spaniard was joined on the scrapheap by top seed Aryna Sabalenka, No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova, No. 6 Iga Swiatek and two-time champion Elina Svitolina as the shocks came thick and fast.
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Veronika Kudermetova is ranked No. 29 in the world and has a lone WTA singles title to her name, but the 24-year-old Russian was not overawed by her opponent or the occasion as she defeated Muguruza 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 — after receiving treatment on a problematic hip midway through the second set.
“I start to feel painful on my hip,” Kudermetova said. “Yesterday I had a tough match (against Victoria Azarenka), and today we played at very high level, I think I had little tightness. That’s it.
“I didn’t start well but In the second set, I found my game, to play my best, sometimes aggressive. I started to mix my serve. I think it was the key.”
Kudermetova admitted that she is growing in confidence after another big win.
“Here it is really a tough, tough tournament because every player is the highest level,” she said. “Every match when I win, I take confidence. Yesterday I won a good match. Today I won a good match. So now I will try to play my best tomorrow.”
The Russian will next face lucky loser Jil Teichmann, who dispatched two-time DDFTC champion Svitolina in straight sets, with the Swiss star making the most of her second chance after losing out in qualifying, defeating the out-of-sorts Ukranian 10th seed 7-6, 6-2.
World No. 2 Sabalenka has been going through a tough time on court recently, admitting that she needs to work on all parts of her game. Her serve was particularly poor against Kvitova as she coughed up double-fault after double-fault as she went down meekly 6-4, 6-4 against 31-year-old world No. 25 Kvitova, with the Belarusian making a swift exit as she tries to recover the form that was saw her win six WTA titles.
Jabeur wasted no time in seeing of American Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-1, and the Tunisian was delighted to receive the support of the packed stands chanting her name.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “All Tunisians are crazy. They think it’s a football match. It’s a crazy atmosphere. Hopefully I can see more tomorrow. I’m going to take every match like slowly. I came back from an injury, so I want to be realistic with myself. I want to see the real image for me. My main goal is to be healthy and win matches. Every match I win is a bonus. The season is still long. I don’t want to put, like, unnecessary pressure on myself. I don’t want to be disappointed after.”
While the drama unfolded on Centre Court, Jelena Ostapenko was providing the thrills for the fans on the outside courts.
Following her demolition of Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday, the Latvian world No. 25 was involved in one of the tournament’s most titanic, see-saw battles on Court No. 1 on Wednesday against Iga Swiatek.
The Polish sixth seed was roared on by a rowdy flag-waving following as she bounced back from narrowly dropping the first set to take the second 6-1 and level the match. Things continued to sway back and forth in favour of both players before it was settled — fittingly — by a tiebreak in the decider, with Ostapenko prevailing 6-4, 1-6, 7-6.
“It was a good match, but I felt like I could finish it a bit easier in the third set as I was 3-0 and 30-0 up,” Ostapenko said. “I made it a bit of a roller-coaster. But in general I’m happy with the way I fought till the very last point and I just won the match.
“It is great to have the fans back but the Polish people were a little bit not too nice by clapping for double-faults. I don’t think it’s the right way. It’s not a football match, it’s a tennis match. When she was making double-faults, nobody was clapping because people know how to behave. Some of them, of course, they were behaving not the way they should. But that only made me more angry and more hungry to win.”
Ostapenko was rewarded with a clash against Kvitova, a match she is looking forward to. “Like me, she’s also aggressive player. She can have really good matches. But it depends on the day. If it’s not her day, maybe she’s not going to play her best. Of course, I’m always going to be ready to play a really tough match against her because she’s a good player. Just focus more on myself and, yeah, be aggressive. I think that can be the key against her.”
Krejcikova was also sent packing early from Court 1 as Ukranian qualifier Dayana Yastremska took the No. 2 seed down 6-3, 7-6. Two-time former champion Simona Halep is still a strong contender for the title after she defeated qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-2.
“It was extraordinary to see so many seeds upset in one afternoon,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We congratulate the winners and look forward to seeing Garbine, Barbora, Iga, Elina and everyone else back in Dubai to bid once again for the title, and we wish them well during the remainder of the season.”