Wednesday’s Set Points, WTA Dubai: Brilliant Bellis beat Radwanska, Konjuh also through to QFs

Set PointsThe upset train gathered more pace on day 4 of main draw action at the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Championships. The 17-year-old, CiCi Bellis scored the biggest win of her career so far, defeating the world number six, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 2-6 6-2.

Bellis played a superb match – I was so impressed with her composure and confidence towards the end, and she looked comfortable in a winning position as she served out the match like a seasoned pro. The American’s game is solid but it has come on a lot in the past year or so with some decent pace on the groundstrokes that allowed her to dominate the fair share of rallies.

For Radwanska, it was another concerning loss. It felt like she was overforcing the issue in the third set and missing much more than Bellis, including on serve with five double faults in the decider. Radwanska admitted in her press conference that she wasn’t feeling the ball and she had no answers in the third set.

I’d anticipated a big year for Bellis but honestly, I didn’t think she was quite ready to see off a player of Radwanska’s calibre, even if the Polish player had been sub-par of late. Bellis was so resilient in her first two matches, coming back from deficits in three of the four sets she played. Credit to the young American who is further cementing the general consensus that she’s one to watch.

Bellis’s press conference from the WTA’s Facebook page is linked below – she’s got a nice way about her and a confidence in what she’s doing. Bellis mentioned about Wozniacki and Radwanska being idols, which Wozniacki said in her press conference made her feel old!

Caroline Wozniacki produced a gritty display to come from a set down to beat Kateryna Bondarenko, 3-6 6-2 6-3. This was Wozniacki’s eighth match in as many days. The Dane took a medical time-out towards the end of the second set and came back sporting strapping on her leg. She said in her press conference that it was a slight sprain to the groin.

Props to Wozniacki for battling on and actually, she played a quality third set with Bondarenko’s errors and decision making costing her at the very end. There was an angry forehand in the second set from Wozniacki which was one of the best i’ve ever seen her hit! Wozniacki gets Bellis next. I’ll be surprised if Wozniacki can keep the run going physically. It’s a new situation for Bellis so i’m really not sure what to expect from this quarter-final.

Ana Konjuh scored her second win in a row over a seed, surviving a three set battle against the number eight seed, Elena Vesnina, 3-6 6-4 7-6(4) in two hours and 31 minutes. This was less of a surprise but still an upset on paper. While my picks were falling like dominoes, Konjuh reaching the quarters was my one ray of sunshine!

This was a topsy-turvy match from the live scores. There were series of breaks and then holds including eight consecutive service holds at the end of the match. There was a break for a medical time-out for Konjuh in the second set. While she seemed to finish the match OK, it’s tough to keep on having to play every day…

While most of the seeds have now fallen, the number one seed, Angelique Kerber is enjoying her best week of the year as she defeated Monica Puig, 6-2 6-3. Kerber staved off five break points in the match including a *0-40 hole when serving for the first set. Kerber plays Konjuh in the quarter-final which is a match-up i’m excited for. I just hope Konjuh will be up for it physically.

The only other top eight seed to reach the quarter-finals is the number seven seed, Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian player was on the ropes for a time, fighting back from a set and a break down to beat Christina McHale, 4-6 6-4 6-3. I managed to watch most of the second set during my lunch break – this was a gruelling match packed with long, drawn-out rallies. I was silently screaming at the screen for Svitolina to come forward as she persisted to stay behind the baseline and play a pretty passive match. Svitolina did well to get the win but I felt there were chances to be more dynamic and take a few risks.

In the second set, McHale was more decisive with her strokes and exceedingly patient for a time. She played a superb return game to break to 4-3 but it all kind of unraveled from there with errors creeping in as Svitolina shored up her game. From an early break down in the third set, Svitolina won six of the last eight games to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in Dubai.

Lauren Davis won 11 of the last 12 points to record her first ever win over Ekaterina Makarova, 4-6 6-1 6-3. It was the third match this week that Davis has won after losing the first set as she continues her stunning recent run of form. Davis will play Svitolina in the quarter-finals.


From *0-3 *30-40 down in the first set, Anastasija Sevastova came alive to beat Peng Shuai in straight sets, 6-4 6-3, and reach her first quarter-final since last year’s US Open.

And another result that i’d class as a surprise was Wang Qiang’s 6-1 6-4 victory over Kristina Mladenovic. It sounded like a rough performance from Kiki. Credit though to Wang who is enjoying her best ever week on the WTA tour.

It’s been another upset-heavy week in Dubai but I think it’s to be expected in February. Still, the draw has held up better than this time last year and Doha had a top-notch final. Hands up though if you called a Wang v Sevastova quarter-final?! This will be the first of the four quarter-finals at not before 2pm local time (10am UK time). Two polls for the late night matches below…

In other news, the entry list for Charleston is out. There’s only two top ten players but it’s a super list with the likes of Keys, Konta, Venus, Wozniacki, Stosur, Gavrilova, Kasatkina, Konjuh, Puig, Safarova, Jankovic, Petkovic, Osaka andddddd… Alisa Kleybanova!

And finally, it’s nice to see Carla Suárez Navarro coming back! She is set to headline the Malaysian Open next week in Kuala Lumpur.

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15 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Set Points, WTA Dubai: Brilliant Bellis beat Radwanska, Konjuh also through to QFs

  1. If I remember rightly, CiCi Bellis beat Domi Cibulkova at the 2014 US Open when she was just 15 (and after Domi had had a good season, even reaching the top 10), so she’s long been on the radar as a player to watch.

    Apart from Aga and Caro Wozniacki, CiCi has also mentioned Angie Kerber as an inspiration. After playing and losing to her last year, she said she thought Angie’s groundstrokes are were perfect and she wished she could play like that herself.

    It’s be great to see her make the final but failing that, I predict the finalists will be Angie and either Elina Svitolina or Lauren Davis (I think that one’s too close to call at the moment).


      • Based on how many matches Wozniacki has played of late and the slight groin strain she picked up yesterday, I think CiCi will be good enough to capitalise. It wouldn’t surprise me if Woz pulls out but I hope we get a match.


    • Cibulkova had already had a real drop in form by the time she lost to CiCi at Flushing Meadows. I believe she was carrying an achilles injury? Not to take anything away from Bellis, of course, but when a player like Domi goes off the boil, her game falls apart.


  2. I watched the whole Svitolina match, what a slog! It’s difficult when you get two players with very similar games because when they play their own game style its like trench war fare. Then one player will try to do more, not really sure if it’s the right strategy and thus not really executing. The positives she can take away is that she’s moving and defending beautifully and she finished the match with real intent and solid shot making.


    • Yep very true, in the time that I was watching I noticed a few moments where Svitolina had the chance to come forward and she seemed to think about it but stay back. When McHale broke for 4-3 second set I thought she was in trouble but she did well to come back.


      • In retrospect it’s pretty impressive that she managed to win the match when she’d lost break up advantages in the first two sets. Those kinds of wins can really build your confidence!
        Davis will be a tough test though. It’s the same kind of challenge as McHale: playing a player with very similar strengths to your own. Svitolina is a more complete player though, in my opinion, and so hopefully she’ll come through it.


      • I do wonder, what physical aspects of her game Henin is helping with. Because Justine Henin knew how to transition well between baseline play and net play. Granted she is a work in progress, doesn’t she seem to have taken a step back from the way she used to play?? Probably reading too much into her play, because of my view of Justine. She was quite tactical in her approach and am not seeing Svitolina’s. Of course you should have some technical skills to effectively apply a tactic but Svitolina is not exactly lacking, and she is still young( be able to adapt).


      • For some reason, you tube-the travel channel- has a number of recent wta complete matches, including the bellis-aga match. Probably it won’t last long.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t believe Henin is working with Svitolina this year.
        She does approach the net far more often nowadays than she did previously. As James said, against McHale she wanted to but didn’t quite feel comfortable in doing so against such a solid baseline player as Christina.


      • Same, I don’t think Svitolina is currently working with Henin. It was announced at the start of the year that she would have Gabriel Urpi, Thierry Ascione and Andrew Bettles in her team but it seems only the latter has been travelling with her so far.

        Good win that for Svitolina, watched the 2nd set. First point I saw she was coming forward! Not always successful but a much more positive display.


  3. So what kind of game does CiCi Bellis have (wasn’t able to watch it so far)? It seems like she is quite short? So is her game similar to Cibulkova’s? Quite aggressive? Or more defensive? How is her serve?


  4. Bad time of the month for Aga?

    “I didn’t feel good from the beginning. I didn’t play really great, and I was trying everything. I did what I could today,” Radwanska told press after the defeat.

    She added, “For me it was really hard to control the ball and make the angles. And also, my serve didn’t work at all. In those kind of tight matches, you need those things. When you don’t have it and you’re struggling pretty much from the beginning, then you have a problem.

    “I was really struggling myself. I was really focusing on myself today, but I just wasn’t good enough.”

    Good win for CiCi though. she’s clearly a player with a bright future (provided she can stay clear of injuries).


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