Dubai tennis: Potapova spoils Bencic's birthday, Muguruza beats Swiatek

Spanish ninth seed Garbine Muguruza hits a backhand return. (Supplied photo)
Spanish ninth seed Garbine Muguruza hits a backhand return. (Supplied photo)

Dubai - Third seed Aryna Sabalenka waltzed into the quarterfinals with a straight-set victory over Estonian Anett Kontaveit

By James Jose

Published: Thu 11 Mar 2021, 12:06 AM

Last updated: Thu 11 Mar 2021, 12:19 AM

The WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will crown a new champion at the end of the week after former winner Belinda Bencic of Switzerland joined a host of other seeds at the exit door, at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre on Wednesday.

After unheralded American Jessica Pegula had got the better of second seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, for the second time in two weeks, Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova continued her giant-killing spree, by taming 2019 champion Bencic, in the third round.

The tournament is now shorn of its top two seeds heading into the quarterfinals, with top seed and world No.5 Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, back-to-back Dubai champion in 2017 and 2018, losing to Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, earlier in the second round.

Pegula had beaten Pliskova in the quarterfinals of the Doha Open last week and the world No.36 seemed to have the measure of the world No.6 yet again, with a 6-0, 6-2 verdict, in just under an hour, over the 2015 runner-up.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Russian Potapova, ranked 88 in the world, spoiled Bencic's 23rd birthday with a gritty 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 victory, in a match that lasted two hours and 17 minutes. Potapova had earlier beaten American 11th seed Madison Keys in the second round. Potapova will now take on Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

“This is definitely the best of any other year I’ve had on tour,” said Pegula, who had also reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year.

“I’m just really happy I’m able to do it, especially in a time where, with the pandemic it’s been really hard to know what’s going to happen in the future. So, I think also in a way maybe it helped me mentally not to take each match for granted. I’m definitely going out there competing as hard as I can,” added the 27-year-old, who now goes up against Belgian 10th seed and world No.18 Elise Mertens, for a berth in the semis. Mertens cruised past Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 32 minutes.

“I played her in Cincinnati (Masters). She has improved a lot and she is very consistent as well. So, it is going to be a really interesting match,” Mertens said about her match-up against Pegula.

In a late match, Spanish ninth seed Garbine Muguruza eased past French Open champion Polish 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, seeded eighth here, 6-0 6-4.

Meanwhile, third seed Aryna Sabalenka waltzed into the quarterfinals with a straight-set victory over Estonian Anett Kontaveit.

World No.8 Sabalenka, winner of the inaugural Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open earlier in January, prevailed 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and four minutes over the 15th seed.

Meanwhile, Kuznetsova went down to Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2.

RESULTS (Round 3):

Jessica Pegula (USA) beat Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 6-0, 6-2

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x3) beat Anett Kontaveit (EST x15) 6-3, 6-2

Anastasia Potapova (RUS) beat Belinda Bencic (SUI x6) 6-1, 2-6, 7-5

Elise Mertens (BEL x10) beat Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-4, 6-2

Garbine Muguruza (ESP x9) beat Iga Swiatek (POL x8) 6-0, 6-4

Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) beat Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3, 6-2

Cori Gauff (USA) beat Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-4, 6-2

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