February 22 2018 – DUBAI, UAE: Top seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina and third seed Karolina Pliskova were involved in lengthy contests at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, but both emerged as winners. Svitolina was stretched by Qiang Wang, who only received a place in the main draw as a lucky loser, but prevailed 6-1 5-7 6-2 in two hours 10 minutes, and Pliskova also took over two hours to overcome Carla Suarez Navarro 5-7 6-2 6-4. Wimbledon champion and second seed Garbine Muguruza defeated wild card Catherine Bellis 6-3 7-5 in a match that finished at 1.51am.
But French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and Wimbledon semi-finalist Johanna Konta both failed to survive the second round. Fourth seed Ostapenko was beaten 6-1 7-6 (6) by Elena Vesnina, and seventh seed Konta failed to take advantage of two match points before falling to a 4-6 7-6 (6) 6-2 defeat at the hands of Daria Kasatkina in a battle that lasted just 20 seconds under three hours and finished close to midnight.
'I'm just really happy,' said Vesnina after her second win in two meetings with Ostapenko. 'It was a weird match. At the beginning, everything was going my way. I was playing very clean. Jelena was missing a lot of shots. In the second set, she got back. She is a top 10 player, she is a Grand Slam champion. Of course, she will rebound, she will change something in her game.'
Kasatkina appeared overwhelmed at the magnitude of her victory over Konta, saying, 'I didn't control my emotions, so... Really, I was just playing with my instincts, and that's it, because my head was not working any more. It was such a tough match. We spent like three hours on the court, but felt like one hour on a court because I was so much in the match. But now I feel a bit weird, yeah, because it's done. It was such a big battle, such a big fight. So I'm just happy that I survive.'
Konta is slowly rebuilding after a disappointing second half of last season, and believes she is heading in the right direction.
'I felt I did try to play the right way,' she said. '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. It would have been nice to have taken one of the match points, however that's part of the game. I think I can only really look back on this match, take the good things, because I did do a lot of good things, then learn from the things I can try to do better.'
In other matches, fifth seed Caroline Garcia beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-2 and sixth seed Angelique Kerber took just 64 minutes to beat qualifier Sara Errani 6-4 6-2. Wild card Naomi Osaka also reached the quarter-finals with a 6-2 7-6 (5) victory over Anett Kontaveit.
'We have enjoyed so many fantastic matches today, and Daria Kasatkina's battle with Johanna Konta in particular had us on the edge of our seats,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. 'Both Johanna Konta and Jelena Ostapenko fell victim to inspired opponents, and we wish them well in the future and look forward to seeing them here again.'
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, 'There were so many highly competitive matches to enjoy today, with two of our top stars unable to progress to the quarter-finals. Once again, the high quality of all the players competing this week has demonstrated that it is impossible to predict who will lift the trophy on Saturday. The next few days are going to be very interesting indeed.'
The WTA event continues until 24th February and includes Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, and 2016 US Open finalist and former world number one Karolina Pliskova.
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).