Dubai: Aliaksandra Sasnovich and last year’s runner-up Daria Kasatkina were among the big winners as the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships got under way at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Sunday.
Sasnovich staged a dramatic fightback to defeat Ekaterina Makarova 0-6, 7-5, 6-4 before Kasatkina worked her way to a similar hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech.
Makarova has been ranked in the top 10 and last year she enjoyed wins over former world No. 1s Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova and ninth-ranked Julia Goerges. A year before, the Russian had victories over then world No. 1 Angelique Kerber and No. 2 Simona Halep.
On Sunday, she seemed to be coasting to victory against Sasnovich as she led by a set and 4-1. But in a stunning turnaround, Sasnovich swept six of the next seven games to level the match, and then she recovered from 0-2 in the third set before winning the final four games.
Kasatkina — losing finalist to Elina Svitolina last year — too had a tough fight on hand as she survived anxious moments before clawing through in three sets against Frech.
After winning the opening set, the 11th-seeded Russian saw her opponent take the second. In the third, the 2018 runner-up trailed 0-4, but did enough to break back a couple of times and then serve out the set and match in over two hours.
“She [Frech] has always been a tough opponent. That was a long time out there on court and I am tired. But I am happy to be ending on the winning side,” Kasatkina said.
“She doesn’t make things easy for you out there. She does a lot of slicing and the ball tends to bounce a little bit more here. That doesn’t make life easy as well. In the end, I will take this win and hope I can get past my crisis,” she added.
Earlier, No. 10 Anastasija Sevastova was the first seed to depart on the opening day after being beaten 6-4, 6-2 by 2017 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge champion Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei. And former finalist Alize Cornet reached the second round by beating Timea Babos 6-4, 6-3, while Kristina Mladenovic lined up a clash with top seed Naomi Osaka after packing off Oman’s Fatma Al Nabhani 6-1, 6-1.