Dubai, UAE, February 20, 2018: There were upsets and thrilling battles on the opening day of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, as former champion Agnieszka Radwanska failed to reach the second round as she fell 7-5 6-4 to Daria Kasatkina, and Johanna Konta made tournament history.
Radwanska won the title in 2012 but last year she suffered a number of injury and illness setbacks and has struggled to regain her place in the top 10. Although she offered stubborn resistance in the first set she failed to find a way back in the second.
'I know it's going to be difficult,' said the former world number two who is now ranked outside the top 30. 'We can see a lot of good players playing a really high level. It's not about one or two tournaments to come back. Maybe if you win the Grand Slam, you have 2000 points. Otherwise it's always going to take time.
'Especially I think physically it's also tougher than it was, especially playing the young ones. Intensity in the game, it's always bigger. You playing more those longer, good matches. So sometimes, you know, physically and mentally it's also tough. I think everything needs to work good to play good match and to win the match. So obviously it's not going any easier.'
Wimbledon semi-finalist and seventh seed Johanna Konta became the first British woman in the 18-year history of the WTA event to win a match in Dubai when she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (2) 6-1 in a high quality hard-hitting contest. The result left Pavlyuchenkova with six straight first round defeats in Dubai and just one win so far this year.
Elena Vesnina lined herself up for a second round showdown with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko by overcoming Shuai Peng 6-4 7-5, Ekaterina Makarova fought off two match points in the second set before overcoming Anastasija Sevastova 3-6 7-6 (9) 6-3, and wild card Naomi Osaka eased past eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic, taking just 70 minutes to win 6-2 6-2.
Four players have qualified for a place in the main draw, with 2016 Dubai champion Sara Errani edging past Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 1-6 7-6 (4), Lesia Tsurenko beating Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-2, Sofya Zhuk defeating Qiang Wang 6-1 6-2 and Samantha Stosur claiming a 6-1 6-4 win over Maria Sakkari. Wang received a main draw place as a lucky loser after the withdrawal of Petra Kvitova yesterday.
'It is only the first day but we have already seen some outstanding matches,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. 'In particular Daria Kasatkina was very impressive as she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, and Johanna Konta's victory was also a delight to see. We can look forward to many more exciting contests in the days ahead.'
'The tournament is now well underway and we have seen that competition is very tough, with our former champion, Agnieszka Radwanska, falling in the first round,' said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. 'One of our wild cards, Naomi Osaka, performed brilliantly in overcoming eighth seed Kristina Mladenovic, and Ekaterina Makarova only just survived to reach the second round.'
The WTA event continues until 24th February and features six of the world's top 10, with Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko, defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, 2016 US Open finalist and former world number one Karolina Pliskova, and in-form Caroline Garcia all competing.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Grandstand ticket prices for the WTA event start at AED55 for opening rounds to AED735 for the ATP finals, with daily Prime A and Prime B tickets and season tickets also available. (All inclusive of VAT).