The 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.