This post previews two of the first round matches from the Dubai Duty Free Championships main draw set to be played on Tuesday including Ana Ivanovic v Daria Gavrilova and Belinda Bencic v Jelena Jankovic. In case you missed it, you can read a preview of the full main draw for the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Championships on mootennis.com HERE.
1. Ana Ivanovic v Daria Gavrilova
The pick of the first round matches in Dubai features a Rome rematch between Ana Ivanovic and Daria Gavrilova on Tuesday. This match happening so early is a mark of Ivanovic’s current ranking which was not good enough to secure a seeding. Ivanovic reached the semi-finals in St. Petersburg where she enjoyed two solid wins, particularly the one over Margarita Gasparyan, which was her best performance of the year so far. After a promising start in the semi-finals against Roberta Vinci, she went down in straight sets, 5-7 4-6, running out of ideas against a very solid Vinci with a steady stream of unforced errors.
Gavrilova will be playing her first tournament since the Australian Open where she produced her best performance at a Grand Slam, reaching the fourth round. Victories over Petra Kvitova and Kristina Mladenovic further cemented what was a breakthrough year in 2015. In what is the dreaded sophomore year, Gavrilova has made a very encouraging start.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Gavrilova edged Ivanovic, 5-7 7-6(2) 7-6(7) in an absolute rollercoaster of a match in Rome last year. Ivanovic failed to serve out the match in the third set but then saved seven match points before Gavrilova deservedly sealed the win courtesy of two forehand errors from Ivanovic.
Final thoughts: Gavrilova has that win over Ivanovic to her credit and has come on leaps and bounds even since that run in Rome. I wonder where Ivanovic’s state of mind will be after the loss to Vinci where she didn’t put up much resistance at the end. Gavrilova is one of the gutsiest competitors out there and with Ivanovic potentially feeling vulnerable, i’d go for the rankings upset in this one.
Prediction: Gavrilova d. Ivanovic in 3 sets
2. Belinda Bencic (5) v Jelena Jankovic
Belinda Bencic, newly appointed to the world’s top ten, is having a marvellous start to 2016. The Swiss player is already at 12 match wins for the year after reaching the final of St. Petersburg where she lost out to Roberta Vinci. In stark contrast, ventures in 2016 haven’t been so fruitful for her first round opponent in Dubai, Jelena Jankovic. The Serb has just two wins to her name and lost both her singles matches in Fed Cup action to Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro.
H2H Record: Bencic leads Jankovic in their head-to-head, 2-1. While Jankovic won their last match on hard courts in a superb fourth round encounter at Indian Wells. Bencic won their last match on grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, 6-3 6-3.
Interesting stat: The last six sets between Jankovic and Bencic have all finished with the scoreline, 6-3.
Final thoughts: Jankovic does have a win on hard courts over Bencic, but the Swiss player has come on so much in the last year. Her greatest strength right now is coming through in the crucial moments, something that Jankovic hasn’t done much of this year! JJ can still produce some excellent tennis; notably her run in Hong Kong last year where she beat Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams back-to-back. Bencic though has shown her ability to adapt to these kinds of situations in the past and transitioning between tournaments despite having playing a lot of tennis…
Prediction: Bencic d. Jankovic in 3 sets