Madison Keys
Madison Keys of the United States in action against Caroline Garcia of France at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2023. Fourth seed Garcia became the biggest casualty on February 21, 2022. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

A misfiring serve, and an eager opponent undermined Caroline Garcia, who became the biggest casualty in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. The fourth-seeded Frenchwoman crashed out after suffering a 7-5, 6-4 loss to unseeded American Madison Keys in a first-round game on Tuesday.

But Sania Mirza’s final pro match grabbed all the attention. All players were asked about her, and they all were effusive in praise of her contribution to tennis in India and the region. But the Russian pair of Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova did not do them any favours to Mirza and Madison Keys (US), notching a 6-4-6-0 win. Despite the loss, the packed crowd at Court 3 erupted into applause as Mirza waved goodbye.

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As one crowd favourite bade farewell, another took centre stage. Leylah Fernandes of Canada had thrilled the Filipinos with her first round win, but there were no cause for celebration on Tuesday as top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland produced a commanding performance to chalk up a 6-1, 6-1. It was a win that sounded a stern warning to her rivals.

“I’m happy I could play so well because it’s the first match here and I didn’t really have time to adjust to the conditions. I’m just happy that I could put pressure on Leylah, and I kept going, and I didn’t lose my focus throughout all these games. Yeah, I’m happy about it,” the Pole said.

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Swiatek’s rival and second seed, Aryna Sabalenka, powered some crunching forehands and served a couple of double faults as she demolished American Lauren Davis 6-0, 6-1.

“I’m super happy with the win. I think because no matter what, I stay focused. Even when the score felt like easy, I didn’t lose my focus. I was keep doing my thing. I think I’m super happy with that,” the Belarusian said.

Third seed Jessica Pegula dropped the second set only to pull back and post a 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 to make the round of 16. “It was definitely a roller coaster kind of match. I started off playing okay, but then I didn’t think she was playing very well. When she started just putting balls in the court, it definitely switched the match. Just happy that I was able to find my form in the third and win the match,” Pegula said.

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In other second round matches, Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic), Victoria Azarenka (Belarus), Belinda Bencic (Switzerland), Coco Gauff (US) and Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan) posted victories.

The upset of Garcia was the biggest of the tournament so far. The seventh game of the second set encapsulated Garcia’s troubles. The Frenchwoman, ranked fifth in the world, repeatedly served double faults and managed to hold her serve after saving a few break points.

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Keys was on the front foot right from the beginning, snapping up a break and protecting the lead to wrap up the set. The pattern continued in the second set when Garcia struggled to hold her serve

“I am happy with how things went today. I had a break in the first set and an early break in the second. After that, I was focusing on taking control of my serve and keeping the lead,” Keys said after the match, that she’s happy with the fast courts.

The results

Women’s Singles (Round of 32)

Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic, def. Maria Sakkari (6), Greece, 6-1, 6-2.

Anhelina Kalinina, Ukraine, def. Dayana Yastremska, Ukraine, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

Barbora Krejcikova, Czech Republic, def. Daria Kasatkina (7), Russia, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Madison Keys, United States, def. Caroline Garcia (4), France, 7-5, 6-4.

Liudmila Samsonova (14), Russia, def. Zheng Qinwen, China, walkover.

Karolina Muchova, Czech Republic, def. Sorana Cirstea, Romania, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Jessica Pegula (3), United States, def. Viktoriya Tomova, Bulgaria, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.

Victoria Azarenka (15), Belarus, def. Amanda Anisimova, United States, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Petra Kvitova (12), Czech Republic, def. Yulia Putintseva, Kazakhstan, 6-4, 6-4.

Jelena Ostapenko (13), Latvia, def. Linda Fruhvirtova, Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-0.

Aryna Sabalenka (2), Belarus, def. Lauren Davis, United States, 6-0, 6-1.

Ana Bogdan, Romania, def. Shelby Rogers, United States, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Belinda Bencic (8), Switzerland, def. Marta Kostyuk, Ukraine, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Iga Swiatek (1), Poland, def. Leylah Annie Fernandez, Canada, 6-1, 6-1.

Coco Gauff (5), United States, def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Belarus, 6-0, 6-4.

Doubles, Round of 32:

Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova, Russia, def. Sania Mirza, India, and Madison Keys, United States, 6-4, 6-0.

Round of 16

Demi Schuurs, Netherlands, and Desirae Krawczyk (3), United States, def. Ulrikke Eikeri, Norway, and Alicja Rosolska, Poland, 6-1, 6-2

Lyudmyla Kichenok, Ukraine, and Jelena Ostapenko (2), Latvia, def. Kristina Mladenovic, France, and Timea Babos, Hungary, 6-1, 7-6 (4).