Dubai tennis: Kuznetsova sends Svitolina home

Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a backhand return. (Supplied photo)
Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a backhand return. (Supplied photo)

Dubai - 2013 champion Petra Kvitova retired from her match against Jil Teichmann

By James Jose

Published: Wed 10 Mar 2021, 12:53 AM

Last updated: Wed 10 Mar 2021, 1:06 AM

The Aviation Club Tennis Centre is usually bustling with fans, with almost every seat of the 5000-seater occupied, year after year. But these are different times and it all felt a bit surreal. Safety measures due to the pandemic have meant that the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is being played out behind closed doors.

The cheers were replaced by the sound of birds chirping as they made their way home but Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova didn’t mind it one bit, sending top seed and world No.5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine home, on Tuesday night.

World No,.41 Kuznetsova, a three-time runner-up here in 2004, 2008 and 2011, rallied from a set down to stun the two-time Dubai champion 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 52 minutes, in the second round match, on Centre Court.

"I have no doubts I can compete against the best, so I just want to play and enjoy my game," said Kuznetsova.

"I was feeling so stressed out there in the first set, I couldn’t make any balls, the feeling was terrible.

"I was just focusing on trying to make two or three shots in, to see how I can go, how I can regroup, that’s it,” she added.

In fact, it was a day of upsets with three more seeds falling by the wayside.

Qualifier Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic handed fifth seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands a shock defeat, with the 26-year-old from Prague winning the second round fixture 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 18 minutes.

Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova stunned American 11th seed Madison Keys 6-4, 6-3, while American wildcard Cori Gauff defeated 12th seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Meanwhile, 2013 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who had won her second title in Qatar last week and the 28th of her career, retired from her match against Jil Teichmann of Switzerland.

The fourth-seeded Kvitova had lost the first set 6-2 and was leading 4-3 in the second but called it quits due to an injury.

"Since my semifinal in Doha, I felt my adductor," said Kvitova.

“It didn't get any better in the second set, it just got a little bit worse and I felt pain almost everywhere on the right leg. So, unfortunately, I couldn't really move how I wanted, and I didn't want to get it even worse. So that's unfortunately why I retired,” added the 2019 runner-up.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, champion here in 2019, was stretched by Veronika Kudermetova before eventually prevailing over the Russian, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in a match that lasted two hours and 38 minutes.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic overcame a blip to move into the third round. The world No.6, runner-up here in 2015, rallied after losing the second set, to get the better of Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

Pliskova, a former world No.1, served nine aces and had 11 double faults, but came up with 43 winners to that of Sevastova’s 13. Sevastova had five aces and three double faults.

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