Top seed Viktoria Hruncakova eased her way past Dalila Jakupovic in the opening round of the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, on Monday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The top two seeds had an effortless march into the second round of competition with near-identical straight-set wins as the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge opened here on Monday.

Top-seeded Viktoria Hruncakova eased away to a 6-4, 6-3 victory in 74 minutes against Slovenia’s Dalila Hruncakova, after second seed and 2021 champion Daria Snigur took nearly the same time to get the better of Anastasia Zakharova 6-2, 6-4.

Also advancing was third seed Rebecca Sramkova while leading Natalija Stevanovic 6-1, 2-0 when the Serbian player retired with an injury.B

Biggest casualty

The biggest casualty of the opening day was former World No 12 Sabine Lisicky as the German went down tamely against Uzbekistan’s Nigina Abduraimova 6-3, 6-4. The 34-year-old German, now ranked No 376 on the WTA Tour, shone in bits and pieces, but could do very little against an Uzbek opponent who remained steady on her big serve.

“The idea in my mind was to just fight for each and every point as I know how tricky these top players can be,” Abduraimova later admitted.

“At the moment, I am just happy to go through to the next round. This is a big win for me against a one-time top player. But honestly, it did not make too much difference to me who was on the other side of the net as my focus was on playing my best game,” she added.

The 29-year-old, whose best-ever ranking was at No 139 some three years back, will next run into eighth seeded Ekaterina Makarova — a 6-0, 7-6 (5) winner against Bulgaria’s Gergana Topalova.

Finding the rhythm

Now 21, Snigur was pleased that she was finding her rhythm on court so early in the competition. “I came here a couple of days early and that seems to have helped my game. I have told myself that I do not want the pressure to get to me, like it happened last year [as she came in as the defending champion]. I am happy to be in the second round,” the former champion from Ukraine related.

Sixth seed Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic was the only major casualty of the day when she went down 4-6, 6-7 (5) to Yulia Hatouka.

Young Arianne Hartono — a niece of Indonesian tennis players Deddy and Lukky Hartono — took just 55 minutes to breeze past Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-1, 6-1 in a battle between two Dutch players.

Earlier in the day, the top three seeds were among the eight qualifiers into the main draw of the singles competition.

Top seed Kateryna Volodko from the Ukraine dismissed off Great Britain’s Sarah Beth Grey 6-4, 7-5, before Serbia’s Lola Radivojevic got the better of Anastasia Kovaleva 6-2, 7-5 and third seed Isabella Shinikova of Bulgaria took less than an hour to dump Italian Diletta Cherubini 6-1, 6-1.

Faltered at end

Also advancing into the main rounds of the competition was No 9 Leonie Kung with a swift 6-3, 6-2 win against sixth seed Dimitra Pavlou, while fourth seed Nika Radisic of Slovenia showed signs of a fightback before going down 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 against Britain’s Emily Appleton.

UAE-born Stefania Bojica also faltered at the last step of qualifying when she went down in straight sets against Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech. The 18-year-old Romanian tried her best to match a more accomplished opponent but fell short 1-6, 4-6 in an hour and 23 minutes.

Meanwhile, play will commence rom 10am on Tuesday with the rest of the Round One matches. Spectators are more than welcome to come and watch the future stars of women’s tennis.

Results: (Final round of qualifying at the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, on Monday): Kateryna Volodko bt Sarah Beth Grey 6-4, 7-5; Leonie Kung bt Dimitra Pavlou 6-3, 6-2; Isabella Shinikova bt Diletta Cherubini 6-1, 6-1; Lola Radivojevic bt Anastasia Kovaleva 6-2, 7-5; Peangtarn Plipuech bt Stefania Bojica 6-1, 6-4; Emily Appleton bt Nika Radisic 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4; Ekaterina Tashina bt Elena Pridankina 2-1 (retd).

(Round One): Nigina Abduraimova bt Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-4; Daria Snigur bt Anastasia Zakharova 6-2, 6-4; Rebecca Sramkova bt Natalija Stevanovic 6-1, 2-0 (retd.); Viktoria Hruncakova bt Dalila Jakupovic 6-4, 6-3; Arianne Hartono bt Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-1, 6-1; Ekaterina Makarova bt Gergana Topalova 6-0, 7-6 (4); Yuliya Hatouka bt Tereza Martincova 6-4, 7-6 (5).