Top Seeds Tumble in Dubai Tennis

Defending champion Venus Williams showed the composure other stars lacked as tennis lovers saw their favourite players suffer heartbreaking defeats.

By Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Thu 18 Feb 2010, 9:43 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:53 AM

It was a day of upsets as the top two seeds – Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova – suffered painful blows. And the fans finally had a huge sigh of relief when Venus, the seven-time Grand Slam winner, survived the opening set jitters to tame Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-5 6-0 in her third round match at the Centre Court to reach the quarter-finals of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Later in the first match of the evening at the Centre Court, Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenko (world number 38) defeated crowd favourite Daniela Hanthuchova (world number 27) of Slovakia in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

At one stage, Venus was trailing 1-4 in the first set, but the five-time Wimbledon champion raised her level when it mattered as she gave Govortsova, world number 56, a tennis lesson with some sublime shots.

Unlike Venus, Wozniacki and Kuznetsova failed to raise their game when their rivals raised their own. Wozniacki, the world number three, on Wednesday was no match for Shahar Peer as the Israeli won in straight sets 6-2 7-5 on Court One.

It wasn’t the most shocking defeat of the day as Peer (world number 22) is a world class player who had just defeated last year’s runner-up Virginie Razzano on Tuesday.

The biggest upset of the day was caused by a little known Russian called Regina Kulikova. The qualifier stunned compatriot and world number two Kuznetsova 5-7 7-6 6-4 in an epic battle.

Fortunes swung like a pendulum as Kulikova surprised Kuznetsova with her incredible ability to fight back. Who would have thought that she could still hit those winners when she was 1-4 down in the decider against the French Open champion? She did just that and more, winning the next five games, making her famous rival hit the ball wildly in anguish after she won the most memorable point of her life.

While Kuznetsova faltered at the most crucial moment, eight-seed Li Na of China was at her best in the third set after she faced a huge challenge from Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli. Even after losing the first 3-6 to the world number 13 Bartoli, Li Na won the next two sets 7-5 6-0.

“I was 5-2 down in the second. I mean, I never give up, so everyone can see. If I’m down or if I was 3-love up, I never give up. I was just playing my game. Maybe I have a chance because the chair umpire didn’t say, game, set, match, so I still have a chance,” said Li na after her three-set victory.

Earlier in the day, Wozniacki, who stunned everyone at the US Open last year by reaching the final, failed to show the never-say-die spirit against Peer.

“She played well today. She really did. She was changing the rhythm and going in and attacking the balls,” the dejected Dane said after the match.

“At the beginning I was making a bit too many unforced errors, and afterwards I started to get into the game. And then, you know, we had a lot of long rallies and I didn’t take many chances. I had my chances especially in the second set, and I didn’t take them.” Wozniacki did have chances to take the match to the third set, but she failed to hold her serve. Not once, but twice she couldn’t hold her serve.

“Yeah, definitely my serve was not working the way I wanted it to. I had some periods in the match where I served some good serves, and then suddenly I didn’t get a first serve in. So, of course that could have been better, much better.” While Wozniacki had a day to forget, her best friend on the WTA Tour and world number six, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, had reasons to be happy after her 6-1 4-6 6-3 win over qualifier Anna-lena Groenefeld of Germany. In the quarterfinals, Kulikova will now face Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, world number 9, who became the first player to reach the quarters with a 6-3 6-0 win over Italy’s Flavia Pennetta. Peer will face China’s Li Na in another quarter-final match. On Tuesday night, Elena Dementieva, world number 7, pulled out with a shoulder injury.

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