World Tennis League: Kites find their wings in Dubai

World No.1 Iga Swiatek maintains unbeaten run as Felix Auger-Aliassime seals the win over the Hawks


Leslie Wilson Jr

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World No.1 Iga Swiatek in action against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Dubai on Thursday. — Photo by Neeraj Murali
World No.1 Iga Swiatek in action against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Dubai on Thursday. — Photo by Neeraj Murali

Published: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 12:36 AM

If 2022 was a seminal year for Iga Swiatek where she emerged as the world’s No.1 women’s tennis player, then 2023 promises even greater rewards for the Polish sensation who is whipping up a desert storm with her team the Kites, at the inaugural World Tennis League at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

The Pole followed up her opening day’s victory over Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia (Eagles) on Monday with a dominant 6-4, 6-3 victory over Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks), as the Kites beat the Hawks 2-1 despite losing the opening doubles.

At the end of the fourth day’s action on Thursday, the Kites top the four-team table on 77 points with the Hawks in second place on 66, one point ahead of the Eagles while Novak Djokovic’s Falcons are at the bottom on 58.

Having already showcased the level of tennis that she is capable of by winning both the French and US Open this year Swiatek is now prepared to push herself even harder to reach greater heights in the New Year.

And what better way to prepare for an assault on the rapidly improving women’s game than to win both her singles matches in the new mixed-gender team event.

“I take this as a new experience to adjust and I’m pretty happy with my game because this match was pretty tight and there were moments that it could go both ways,” Swiatek said. “So I’m pretty happy that I took my chances in those important moments of the game.”

In the last match of the evening Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Dominic Thiem in an absolute cliff-hanger to keep the Kites in the running for a place in Saturday’s finals.

Auger-Aliassime won 7-6 7-6.

Sania Mirza in action. — Photo by Neeraj Murali
Sania Mirza in action. — Photo by Neeraj Murali

It was very much a Ladies' Day at the World Tennis League as earlier in the evening, local tennis fans feasted on Dubai-based Indian superstar Sania Mirza’s first appearance on these shores in a long time when she teamed up with Felix Augger-Aliassime to represent the Kites in the opening mixed doubles against Elena Rybakina and Alexander Zverev of the Hawks.

And Mirza did not disappoint them, showing glimpses of the form that earned her six Grand Slams titles, as she and Augger-Aliassime matched their opponents set-for-set before losing in the super tie-break. The final score was 7-5 3-6 (10-5) with the Hawks edging the Kites 12-11 overall, on points.

Mirza, who reached the mixed doubles semifinals at Wimbledon this year, is one of several celebrities who have made Dubai their permanent home after falling in love with the vibrant city over a decade ago. She has even gone on record to say that, ‘once you live in Dubai it's very difficult to live anywhere else.’

Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev traded compliments as they described each other as being the better player on the day.

“Elena played much better than me, that’s for sure. I’m happy that she was my partner otherwise it would have been very difficult but I think we’re both happy with the win,” said the German, who earlier this week beat 21-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic in the World Tennis League.

However, Elena in all modesty commented: “We’re actually singles players so this was a good result for us. I think we both played well and complimented each other’s game.”

A total of 18 of the world’s top players are drawn into four teams who play each other in a round-robin format consisting of one men’s singles match, one women’s singles match, and a mixed doubles match.

One point is scored for each game won in a tie, plus one bonus point for a win in a third-set match tiebreak and five bonus points for winning the tie.

Following the round-robin phase on Friday, the top two teams will face off in the final on Christmas Eve, December 24.


> Hawks vs Kites

> Mixed doubles

Elena Rybakina/ Alexander Zverev beat Sania Mirza/ Felix Augger-Aliassime (Kites) 7-5 3-6 (10-5). Total score 12-11

> Women’s singles

Iga Świątek (Kites) beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks) 6-4 6-3. Total score 23-19

> Men’s singles

Felix Auger-Aliassime (Kites) beat Dominic Thiem (Hawks)


> 2 pm: Eagles vs Hawks

B. Andreescu/ R Bopanna vs A Pvlyuchenkova/ D Thiem

Caroline Garcia vs Elena Rybakina

Nick Kiryos vs Alexander Zverev

> 6 pm Falcons vs Kites

P Badosa. G Dimitrov vs E Bouchard. H Rune

Aryna Sabalenka vs Iga Swiatek

Novak Djokovic vs Felix Auger-Aliassime

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