Marion Bartoli struggled to beat Klara Zakopalova in the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but a 3-6 6-4 6-1 victory lined her up for a second round clash with Serena Williams.
It was hard work for the world number 11, but in a match featuring numerous breaks of serve as both failed to establish their authority, it was Bartoli who finally managed to take control.
“I played extremely bad the first-and-a-half sets, yes, but I think the way I turned around the match from a set 4-3 down, I managed to really play a lot stronger,” Bartoli said. “She just won one game after that. So the way I have been able to turn it around, yes, I’m really pleased with that.”
It is very unusual for a world number 11 to play someone as highly ranked as Serena Williams in just the second round, but that is an indication of the strong field in Dubai, one of the toughest in the world.
“When you come to Dubai, you’re not coming to play against someone ranked 100 in the world. You’re coming to play against the very tough players,” said Bartoli. “And it’s going to be a very hard test, of course, but it will show me where I am and where I need to improve.”
Ana Ivanovic enjoyed an easier victory as she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3 7-6 (7-5), Su-Wei Hsieh eased by Varvara Lepchenko 6-1 6-3 and Yulia Putintseva edged Laura Robson 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8-6).
Sloane Stephens enjoyed a great run at the Australian Open, reaching the semi-finals by beating Serena Williams. But that was no guarantee of success in Dubai and she was beaten 5-7 6-3 6-2 by the more experienced Sorana Cirstea. Despite taking the first set and going up an early break in the second, she failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities and Cirstea went on to emerge as a comfortable winner.
Despite her short time in Dubai, Stephens has managed to fit in a little sightseeing and looks forward to a longer stay next year.
“I saw the Burj Khalifa and went to the mall and it was really cool. It’s overwhelming,” she said. “Like, I don’t even enjoy it because I’m like, ‘There are so many stores, too much stuff to do’. I had fun while I was here. It was a short trip but hopefully next year it will be a little longer.”
Four players came through three qualifying matches to reach the main draw. They are Svetlana Kuznetsova who will play Roberta Vinci, Daniela Hantuchova who will face sixth seed Petra Kvitova, and Urszula Radwanska and Jie Zheng who will face each other.
The top four seeds have a bye into the second round of an event that features eight of the world’s top 10 players. In addition to Williams, the Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic champion, the tournament features Australian Open and Doha winner Victoria Azarenka, 2011 Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki, defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, Italian number one Sara Errani and top German Angelique Kerber.
“The first day saw the surprise defeat of Australian Open semi-finalist Sloane Stephens and a wonderfully competitive match between Marion Bartoli and Klara Zakopalova,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak. “On Tuesday we can look forward to seeing former Grand Slam champions Samantha Stosur and Petra Kvitova, as well as 2011 Dubai champion Caroline Wozniacki and Italian number one Sara Errani. It should be another great day’s tennis."
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which continues until 2nd March, 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.
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/.
For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament phone the call centre on +971 4 4172415.