February 21 2018 – DUBAI, UAE: Angelique Kerber demonstrated the fantastic form that has seen her win 13 of her 15 matches this season as she swept aside 2016 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships finalist Barbora Strycova 6-2 6-1 in just 59 minutes.
Kerber, who has fully turned around a challenging 2017 to win Sydney, reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals in Doha, dominated her opponent from the start and once she had taken an early lead she showed no signs of surrendering her advantage. Now she will face the player who beat Strycova in the 2016 final, Sara Errani.
'Yeah, I think I played a good match. I played a solid match,' said Kerber. 'It's always tough to play against her. You never know what's happen. She's always a fighter. But I'm happy to win the match in two sets. I like to play here in Dubai. I like the weather. It's always nice. Yeah, it's sunny. You have the hotel on-site. I think I just try to really enjoy my stay here every year.'
Fifth seed Caroline Garcia also advanced, firing 10 aces as she earned a 6-3 7-5 win over Lucie Safarova, who is anxious for her luck to change after suffering the misfortune of also meeting Kerber, 10th ranked Julia Goerges and world number six Karolina Pliskova in early stages of her tournaments this year.
In other matches, Qiang Wang was given a place in the main draw as a lucky loser after failing to survive the qualifying rounds, and responded by overwhelming Kiki Bertens 6-3 6-0 in just 55 minutes to set up a second round meeting with top seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina.
There was victory too for wild card Catherine Bellis, who followed up victories last week over US Open finalist Madison Keys and former world number one Karolina Pliskova by beating Elise Mertens 6-3 6-3. Her next opponent is second seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.
Dubai 2016 champion Sara Errani came through qualifying and reached the second round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Lesia Tsurenko, but Samantha Stosur, who played a qualifying event for the first time since 2008, was edged out 1-6 6-2 6-4 by Anett Kontaveit. Carla Suarez Navarro also beat a qualifier, winning 6-2 6-2 against Sofya Zhuk.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is seeded two and happy to be back Dubai, where in 2015 she reached the semi-finals but last year was forced to retire with an injury in her opening match.
She enjoyed four weeks as the number one player late in 2017, and one of her goals this year is to regain the top spot.
'It is important,' she said when she met with the assembled media on Tuesday. 'I always have it in my mind, you know, to be able to fight for that. I remember it was a great feeling to be there, even though it's tough. But I want to fight for that. I know it's the hardest one, but I'm going to be there, try to.
'When you're number one you feel like every tournament you play, you kind of almost have to win it, you have to always maintain a super high level to everyone you play because everybody's playing, you know, like super relaxed, nothing to lose. You feel a lot of pressure. You realise a lot of things when you're there. You're like, okay, I'm here, I can't go more up, all I can do is go down. There's all these girls that want my spot, I have to defend it. You have this, like, alarm all the time.'
'We are thrilled that Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is with us again,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. 'Her taste of being the world number one has made her hungry to regain the top spot, and she appreciates that victory here will play a large part in her realising that ambition. We wish her and all those bidding for the title a successful and enjoyable week.'
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, 'Two players who were not able to earn places in the main draw now find themselves meeting the two top seeds in our defending champion and the Wimbledon winner in the second round. That is just part of the magic of an event that not only features six of the top 10 but many other talented individuals. Angelique Kerber though has shown that it will be difficult to stop her achieving even more success this season, and Caroline Garcia will also present a challenge after she ended last season by winning two tournaments.'
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).