Daria Snigur returns to Anastasia Zakharova n the opening round of the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Monday.
Gulf Today, Sports Reporter
The top two seeds had an effortless march into the second round of competition with near-identical straight-set wins as the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge kicked off in Dubai on Monday.
Top-seeded Viktoria Hruncakova eased away to a 6-4, 6-3 victory in 74 minutes against Slovenia’s Dalila Hruncakova, after second seed and 2021 champion Daria Snigur took nearly the same time to get the better of Anastasia Zakharova 6-2, 6-4.
Also advancing was third seed Rebecca Sramkova while leading Natalija Stevanovic 6-1, 2-0 when the Serbian player retired with an injury.
The biggest casualty of the opening day was former World No.12 Sabine Lisicky as the German went down tamely against Uzbekistan’s Nigina Abduraimova 6-3, 6-4.
The 34-year-old German, now ranked No.376 on the WTA Tour, shone in bits and pieces, but could do very little against an Uzbek opponent who remained steady on her big serve.
“The idea in my mind was to just fight for each and every point as I know how tricky these top players can be,” Abduraimova later admitted.
“At the moment, I am just happy to go through to the next round. This is a big win for me against a one-time top player. But honestly, it did not make too much difference to me who was on the other side of the net as my focus was on playing my best game,” she added.
The 29-year-old, whose best-ever ranking was at No.139 some three years back, will next run into eighth seeded Ekaterina Makarova – a 6-0, 7-6 (5) winner against Bulgaria’s Gergana Topalova.
Now 21, Snigur was pleased that she was finding her rhythm on court so early in the competition. “I came here a couple of days early and that seems to have helped my game. I have told myself that I do not want the pressure to get to me, like it happened last year [as she came in as the defending champion]. I am happy to be in the second round,” the former champion from Ukraine related.
Sixth seed Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic was the only major casualty of the day when she went down 4-6, 6-7 (5) to Yulia Hatouka.
Young Arianne Hartono – a niece of Indonesian tennis players Deddy and Lukky Hartono - took just 55 minutes to breeze past Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-1, 6-1 in a battle between two Dutch players.
Earlier in the day, the top three seeds were among the eight qualifiers into the main draw of the singles competition.
Top seed Kateryna Volodko from the Ukraine dismissed off Great Britain’s Sarah Beth Grey 6-4, 7-5, before Serbia’s Lola Radivojevic got the better of Anastasia Kovaleva 6-2, 7-5 and third seed Isabella Shinikova of Bulgaria took less than an hour to dump Italian Diletta Cherubini 6-1, 6-1.
Also advancing into the main rounds of the competition was No.9 Leonie Kung with a swift 6-3, 6-2 win against sixth seed Dimitra Pavlou, while fourth seed Nika Radisic of Slovenia showed signs of a fightback before going down 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 against Britain’s Emily Appleton.
UAE-born Stefania Bojica also faltered at the last step of qualifying when she went down in straight sets against Thailand’s Peangtarn Plipuech. The 18-year-old Romanian tried her best to match a more accomplished opponent but fell short 1-6, 4-6 in an hour and 23 minutes.
Meanwhile, play will commence rom 10 am on Tuesday with the rest of the Round One matches. Spectators are more than welcome to come and watch the future stars of women’s tennis.
The 18-year-old Bojica, whose entry on the big stage of women’s tennis came at the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open earlier this year, eased past Slovakia’s Nina Danisova 6-2, 6-3 in 99 minutes to set a meeting against eighth seed Peangtarn Plipuech of Thailand.
Staring at defeat at 4-5 and 0-40 in the third set, former British No.1 Watson clawed back to push the set into a deciding tie-breaker that Hartono eventually went on to win and land into her first-ever career W100 final.
Slovakia’s Hruncakova – formerly going by her maiden surname Kuzmova – will meet Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, while Snigur – the 2021 champion at this tournament – will be up against Anastasia Zakharova at the lower end of the draw.
“This is such a lovely tournament for me as I won here two years ago, and that gave me that confidence and belief to go ahead in my career as a tennis player. I now find myself as someone who is capable of doing much better on the WTA Tour,” she said.
The 10-round main event matches Moroccan super featherweight Jaouad “The Moroccan Bomber” Belmehdi (19-1-3, 9 KOs) against the No.1 ranked Ghanaian and African star, undefeated Alfred Lamptey (13-0, 9 KOs).
The visitors finished on 13-2 in their second innings with nightwatchman Nathan Lyon not out six and opener Usman Khawaja on five after Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne departed cheaply.
Dr Amina Al Marzouqi, Vice Chancellor for Student and Branch Affairs, stressed the importance of organising this marathon to promote healthy habits and encourage university students to practice regular sports.