Samantha Stosur of Australia returns to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia during the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis WTA Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 15 February 2015. Image Credit: EPA


Two former Grand Slam champions led the march of top players on the opening day of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Sunday.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova eased into the second round when Kaia Kanepi retired with a lower back injury while trailing 1-4 against the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion.

Earlier in the afternoon, Australia’s Samantha Stosur – the 2011 US Open champion - took a little over one hour to pack off Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 6-1.

But the match of the day was Italy’s Flavia Pennetta justifying her wild card as she fought off four match points to record a hard-fought 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Germany’s Julia Goerges, who had made her way into the main draw as one of three lucky losers.

Pennetta, a semi-finalist here in 2011 and a quarter-finalist last year, was headed for an upset as she trailed by a set and 2-5. But the gritty Italian just hung in there and used her experience to win the set in a tie-breaker before taking the deciding third 6-4 in 135 minutes.

Goerges, who lost in the second round of qualifiers on Saturday, made it into the main draw as one of three lucky losers. And she was further hoping to ride her luck and enjoy success similar to 2012 when she beat Kuznetsova and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. But Pennetta had other plans as she kept fighting till the end. The Italian was unaware of how she managed the win in the end. “I don’t know. I just was playing until the last point and believed [in myself] till the last point. I was almost crying on the court today because I was feeling so bad. But I know sometimes you don’t feel really good in the beginning of the year. Last year I was really good in the beginning, and this year I tried to find my time and my good tennis, but it has not been coming,” she lamented.

The Italian will now meet the winner of Monday’s match between Qiang Wang of China and Japan’s Kurumi Nara. “I have to play with what I have now. It’s not too much. But I’m really ready to play till the end. I like to fight, and this is important. I think when you’re starting fighting and losing or winning matches like this, you get closer to a good level,” she added.

Other winners on the opening day included Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki who beat Romanian Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with former world number one Ana Ivanovic, while Casey Dellacqua became the second wild card to advance with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova, and Belinda Bencic defeated Karin Knapp 6-4, 6-4 to face defending champion Venus Williams in Monday’s last match on centre court.




Samantha Stosur bt Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 6-1; Belinda Bencic bt Karin Knapp 6-4, 6-4; Sabine Lisicki bt Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-4; Flavia Pennetta bt Julia Goerges 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4; Zarina Diyas bt Annika Beck 6-2, 6-2; Tsvetana Pironkova bt Klara Koukalova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; Svetlana Kuznetsova bt Kaia Kanepi 4-1 (retired); Casey Dellacqua bt Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 6-4; Caroline Garcia vs Arina Rodionova 6-3, 6-2.



Monday’s Order of Play

Centre Court (Starting at 12 noon) Elena Vesnina vs Shuai Peng; Heather Watson vs Kateryna Kozlova; Karolina Pliskova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. (Start at 7 pm) Mona Barthel vs Daniela Hantuchova; Venus Williams vs Belinda Bencic.


Court 1 (Starting at 12 noon) Jarmila Gajdosova vs Garbine Muguruza; Vera Zvonareva vs Camila Giorgi; CoCo Vandeweghe vs Elina Svitolina; Monica Puig vs Lucie Safarova.


Court 3 (Starting at 12 noon) Qiang Wang vs Kurumi Nara; Cagla Buyukakcay vs Gabriela Dabrowski; Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs Yuliya Beygelzimer.


Court 2 (Start at 1 pm) Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld vs Raquel Kops-Jones/Abigail Spears; Klaudia Jans-Ignacik/Andreja Klepac vs Anastasia Rodionova/Arina Rodionova; Casey Dellacqua/Samantha Stosur vs Jarmila Gajdosova/Sabine Lisicki.