Anastasia knocks out champion Bencic in DDF Tennis Champi
SHOCKER: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova returns the ball to Belinda Bencic during the DDF Tennis Championship tie on Tuesday. - Photos by Shihab
Dubai - Former champion Svitolina and current Australian Open winner Kenin also bite the dust
The Centre Court of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium turned out to be a graveyard, devouring three champions in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on a heady Tuesday night.
After two-time Dubai winner Elina Svitolina was dusted off by American qualifier Jennifer Brady, Belinda Bencic was unable to get her title defence going, falling to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
And in a primetime fixture later at night, freshly-minted Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin was upstaged by Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina.
World No.4 Ukraine's Svitolina, champion here in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018, was tamed 6-2, 6-1 in exactly an hour, while Swiss world No.5 Bencic, won the first set 6-1 but went to lose the next two by an identical margin, in an hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Kenin lost 7-6 (2), 3-6, 3-6 in two hours.
Svitolina, semifinalist at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, was unable to pin her finger to what went wrong on the day.
"It's tough to say. I don't know. It was not a bad start, but then everything just went downhill. I wish I could regroup better. Just everything was all over the place today," Svitolina said after the defeat.
The 25-year-old had more reason to be miffed as she done well here previously.
"Yeah, that's why it's more upset about that. Yeah, I wish I could play better here because I really love to compete here. I have great memories.Yeah, it's very, very tough for me," she explained.
Svitolina was playing Brady, who had come through qualifying and she said she had no excuses.
"For sure, this was a little bit of an advantage for her. But I played well here before. I mean, I don't have any excuses. I had to find the way. I had to play better. I had to fight. Unfortunately, yeah, it didn't happen. I didn't even play 10% of what I could," said Svitolina.
She did concede though there are bound to be some bad days.
"The bad days happen. Today (Tuesday) unfortunately was one of them. I'm going to get back on the court and work on my game," she said.
Meanwhile, Brady said she believed in herself.
"I think just going out there and believing that I could win. Obviously respecting my opponent, but not to the point where I put the opponent on a pedestal, have to think that I have to play my best tennis in order to win. I was just focused on my game plan, myself. Think I competed well from the very beginning," said Brady.
Meanwhile, Bencic too was equally clueless as to what went wrong.
"I'm really not sure yet. I'm also trying to analyze what went wrong or what was the turning point," said Bencic.
"Sometimes it's even too dangerous when you start very well, then just tennis turns it around. At this point I still don't know what happened. Still looking for an answer," she added.
Meanwhile, Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, said: "I just kept on fighting, still trying to hit every ball, trying to be there. Mentally I was quite positive, just playing point by point."
Singles: Katerina Siniakova (Czech Rep) bt Karolina Muchova (Czech Rep) 6-4, 4-6, 6-0; Jennifer Brady (US) bt Elina Svitolina (Ukr) 6-2, 6-1; Kristina Mladenovic (Fra) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Belarus) 6-4, 6-3; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt Belinda Bencic (Swi) 1-6, 6-1, 6-1; Veronika Kudermetova (Rus) bt Dayana Yastremska (Ukr) 5-7, 6-3, 7-6.
Doubles: Kristyna Pliskova and Karolina Pliskova (Czech Rep) bt Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (Jpn) 6-2, 6-2; Alison Riske and Desirae Krawczyk (US) bt Oksana Kalashnikova (Georgia), and Kaitlyn Christian (US) 6-4, 4-6, 10-8; Peng Shuai and Han Xinyun (Chn) Renata Voracova (Czech Rep) and Cornelia Lister (Swe) 4-6, 7-5, 10-6; Hayley Carter (US) and Luisa Stefani (Bra) bt Andreja Klepac (Slovenia) and Lucie Hradecka (Czech Rep) 6-7 (4), 7-5, 10-2; Sania Mirza (India) and Caroline Garcia (France) bt Katarina Srebotnik (Slovenia) and Alla Kudryavtseva (Rus) 6-4, 4-6, 10-8.