Dubai 2018: Konta falls in Round 2, but top seeds Svitolina, Muguruza and Pliskova reach QFs
British number one Johanna Konta loses in three sets to Daria Kasatkina in the Dubai 2018 round of 16
After taking a wild card into the Dubai Duty Free Premier tournament last week, Johanna Konta made a winning debut in her opener by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets, 7-6(2), 6-2. It made her the first British woman to win a main-draw match in the tournament’s history.
However, the world No12, who has struggled to find her best form this season after ending last year with four straight losses, despite reaching the Wimbledon semis, winning her first Premier Mandatory in Miami, and reaching a career-high of No4, suffered a tough loss to Daria Kasatkina, losing in three sets and more three hours in the second round.
To make it worse, Konta led by a set and a break, 6-4, 3-1, before going on to work two match points in the second-set tie-break. Kasatkina powered back to grab the set with a winner that just clipped the baseline, 7-6(6), and with the clock heading to midnight in the Emirates, the 20-year-old Russian rode two breaks of the Briton’s serve to claim a 6-2 victory.
Kasatkina afterwards appeared overwhelmed at her win:
“I didn’t control my emotions… Really, I was just playing with my instincts because my head was not working any more. It was such a tough match. We spent three hours on the court, but it felt like one hour… But now I feel a bit weird, because it’s done. It was such a big battle, such a big fight. So I’m just happy I survives.”
Konta, despite the loss, believes she is heading in the right direction:
“I felt I did try to play the right way. I actually think I’m playing better and better as the matches go on, as the season is going on. Definitely going to take a lot of good things from that.
“I feel I’m serving better and better… I think I can only really look back on this match, and take the good things, because I did do a lot of good things.”
Kasatkina will face fellow Russian, the 31-year-old Elena Vesnina, in the quarter-finals. The elder player downed her own seed in the second round, the No4 seed Jelena Ostapenko, in straight sets, to score her first top-10 win of the year. For French Open champion Ostapenko, this marked her fourth first-round loss of the year.
The exits of Konta and Ostapenko, both seeded here and both wild-card entries, are the lastest blows to one of the most prestigious women’s tournaments on the tour.
The Dubai event was scheduled to feature world No2 and former champion, Simona Halep, and another former champion, the ever-popular Petra Kvitova. Both pulled out just before Dubai, Halep to nurse a foot injury that forced her to withdraw mid-tournament in last week’s Qatar Total Open, and Kvitova with a leg problem after her unbeaten 13-match run to the titles in St Petersburg and Doha.
Maria Sharapova, who had accepted a wildcard to make her first appearance in Dubai since 2006, withdraw with a forearm strain, and was soon followed by Madison Keys due to illness.
Then there was the loss of tennis’s Fans’ Favourite, and another former champion, Agnieszka Radwanska—the first victim of Kasatkina. The 2012 Dubai winner has struggled to regain her place in the top 10 after last year suffering from a number of injury and illness setbacks. She began 2017 ranked No3, but this week finds herself at 31.
However, there remains ample star quality in the Dubai draw, including three women who held the No1 ranking last year.
No3 seed Karolina Pliskova battled into the quarter-finals, taking over two hours to beat Carla Suarez Navarro 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. And that set up a highly-anticipated meeting with the No6 seed, Angelique Kerber.
The German has continued her great form of 2018 to notch up her 13th match-win out of 15, and on top of that, she went unbeaten in four singles and three doubles matches in the first week of the season at the Hopman Cup. In Dubai, she dropped only three games to Barbora Strycova and then just six to Sara Errani. Against Pliskova, Kerber has a 6-3 advantage, including their last two matches.
The talented young wild card, Naomi Osaka, had to fight hard to close out her match against Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 7-6(5). She served for the match at 5-3, but then allowed her opponent to win the next three games for the chance to level the match. However, Osaka recovered, broke serve, and won the tiebreak. And that set an intriguing quarter-final against the defending champion and top seed, Elina Svitolina.
The 23-year-old Ukrainian was made to work very hard to get past lucky loser Qiang Wang, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. And against Osaka, she faces a 1-2 deficit in their previous matches, including the last two.
At the bottom of the draw, fifth seed Caroline Garcia beat Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4, 6-2, and will next play the No2 seed Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard beat 18-year-old wild card Cici Bellis, 6-3, 7-5, in a match that finished at 1.51am.
Play begins at 2pm tomorrow, with Svitolina taking on Osaka. Muguruza will have to be back on court only 16 or so hours after reaching the quarter-finals, at 7pm.
Tickets are available at: www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets