One-sided scorelines have been a feature of the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Championships so far. All six first round matches on Monday were decided in straight sets and the first two matches on Tuesday’s Centre Court schedule went that way too; Another breadstick-bagel result was in the books as Ana Ivanovic stormed past Daria Gavrilova, 6-1 6-0 in just 53 minutes. The manner of the result was very surprising as Gavrilova has cemented herself as one of the grittiest competitors on tour. The Aussie had a bad day at the office, finishing with stats of 3 winners to 22 unforced errors. On the other hand, Ivanovic played a very secure match and was confidently hitting winners off both wings.
Ivanovic sets up a tantalising second round match against the number one seed and defending champion, Simona Halep. The Romanian player has delayed nose surgery which had previously ruled her out of the Dubai-Doha swing. In a recent WTA article, Halep stated that she feels “okay now” and is likely to delay the surgery until the end of the year.
Halep’s form in 2016 has been below-par, but this can be attributed to her numerous health complaints, as well as the achilles injury which forced her to miss Brisbane and have the trainer out in her first match in Sydney. After a shocking first round loss at the Australian Open to Shuai Zhang, Halep went the distance with both Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova in Fed Cup action last weekend; she went 1-1, surrendering her perfect head-to-head record against Pliskova, but winning an all-top 10 clash with Kvitova for her third consecutive win against the former Wimbledon champion.
Head-to-head record: Halep and Ivanovic are tied at 2-2 in their head-to-head; They didn’t play at all during 2015 with their last match being the dramatic round robin match in Singapore at the end of 2014 where Ivanovic won in three sets, 7-6(7) 3-6 6-3. Halep won their two matches prior to that in Madrid (6-2 6-2, 2014) and Sofia (2-6 6-1 6-3, 2013)
Final thoughts: This is a tricky one to call; Ivanovic has settled down after a slow start to the year that saw her lose her first two matches in Auckland and Sydney. Her form was much improved in Melbourne and St. Petersburg, and the quick win over Gavrilova will have no doubt gone a long way to cut short the disappointment of a straight sets semi-final loss to Roberta Vinci in Russia. While the health concerns have perhaps faded for Halep, she’s yet to find her groove in 2016. It’s hard to split the pair on head-to-head, form and the likely conditions. I think it’s a good court for Ivanovic but being at night might favour Halep. I’ve been burnt going against Halep on many occasions but I think, and it’s a really tentative and woolly feeling, that Ivanovic might take this one.