Qualifiers make merry at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge

Shinikova and Zaytseva send top two seeds packing at annual tennis tournament

By Team KT

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Isabella Shinikova hits a return. — Supplied photo
Isabella Shinikova hits a return. — Supplied photo

Published: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 11:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 11:03 PM

It was a day of the qualifiers as Isabella Shinikova and Ksenia Zaytseva knocked off the top two seeds at the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge at the Habtoor Grand Resort on Thursday.

Shinikova took an hour and 50 minutes to pack off top seed Viktoria Hruncakova 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3, while Zaytseva was on an effortless mode sending 2021 champion and former junior Wimbledon winner Daria Snigur back home 6-3, 6-2 in exactly one hour.

In the day’s top attraction, Great Britain’s Heather Watson brushed off former multiple doubles Grand Slam champion Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-2 to ensure a meeting with third seed Rebecca Sramkova.

Watson, the junior US Open champion in 2008, was ruthless in her approach throughout the 90 minutes on court against a French opponent who can be crafty and smooth.

But, the 31-year-old maintained her focus – and barring a minor bleep towards the end that resulted in four match points saved by her opponent – Watson matched her Dubai record with a second quarter-final appearance here.

Anastasia Tikhonova took the final quarterfinal slot on offered with a sturdy 7-6 (3), 6-4 win against Britain’s Emily Appleton. Tikhonova will now meet Yulia Hatouka in the last eight stages of the singles competition.

The quarter-finals are now set with Shinikova taking on Nigina Abduraimova and Anastasia Tikhonova facing Yuliya Hatouka in the upper half of the draw, while Watson will run into hard-hitting third seed Rebecca Sramkova and Zaytseva will be up against Arianne Hartono from the Netherlands.

“I am really, really happy with this win. I think I played really well from the beginning to the end to get the job done. That first game went on for a good 12 minutes of intense tennis, and I think I did well to keep my concentration intact,” she reflected.

“To her credit, Kiki [Mladenovic] stepped up her level towards the end of the second set. That’s the best tennis we got to witness. It wasn’t that I did anything wrong. It is just that she was super aggressive. So, I really didn’t have to do anything different. I had to just hang in there and play my game to go through,” Watson confessed.

Also promising an improved performance was Shinikova following her upset win over the top seed. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to do so well. But I knew I had to give it everything if I wanted to get past her. I am sure my best is yet to come,” Shinikova assured.

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