Day 3 at the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Championships was the busiest tennis day for a while with 16 second round matches on the schedule. There were upsets, a retirement and even some drama! Read on for my Dubai diary from Tuesday. The tennis just keeps on trucking along with all eight third round matches to be played in Dubai on Wednesday.
Day 3️⃣ Highlights
Svetlana Kuznetsova d. (1) Elina Svitolina, 2-6 6-4 6-1
This is just your casual reminder that Kuznetsova can still beat anyone on her day. Kuznetsova won eight of the last nine games to oust the number one seed and two-time former champion in Dubai, Elina Svitolina. Buoyed by a convincing hold to love at 4-4 in the second set, Kuznetsova then cranked up the pressure on the increasingly vulnerable Svitolina second serve to, rather out of nowhere, force a deciding set. The third set was one-way traffic as Kuznetsova began to wield her all-court magic in the longer rallies. Five of the seven games in the third set went to deuce. Kuznetsova won four of them.
It’s been a rough fortnight for Svitolina. I don’t really know where she’s going with her game and confidence seems low, particularly with how quickly this match unravelled. Svitolina played some great matches in Melbs. All too often it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back.
Coco Gauff d. (12) Marketa Vondrousova, 3-6 6-0 6-4
Gauff and three setters is becoming a thing… a successful thing! Gauff has now played seven consecutive three set matches on the tour and she’s won six of them. The final set of this match had some dramaaaa. In the first game of the decider, Vondrousova caught an aborted ball toss with her racquet which Gauff questioned with the umpire. Vondrousova wasn’t best pleased and responded to Gauff that she was doing the same thing.
On the next point, Gauff went long and Vondrousova roared in her direction. That set off a passage of play where both players were celebrating each other’s errors 😂. There was also a point where Vondrousova was up at the net and Gauff had an easy putaway which she didn’t exactly aim away from Vondrousova. The Czech player shook her head as she walked back to the baseline….
Aggro aside, it was actually an interesting match. Gauff is already an accomplished player at the net and I appreciated her variety. Vondrousova is tough to beat. I tend to think she could be more proactive at times. Gauff kept her head when things got heated to record the best win of her year.
(9) Garbiñe Muguruza d. Amanda Anisimova, 6-4 6-2
This match featured some outrageous ball striking. Anisimova made a really positive start to the match and had opportunities to go up an early break. Anisimova was going close to the lines with a high-risk strategy. It paid off for a time but the errors soon mounted. Muguruza is such a mean competitor and is giving so little away these days. I thought the Spaniard served well again and generally wore down Anisimova. It’s really great to see this commitment from Muguruza, week in, week out.
Next up is a good one – Muguruza vs. Swiatek! The blockbuster match-ups keep on coming and they more often than not seem to include Muguruza this year. We will be guaranteed another juicy match-up in the quarters with the winner of Muguruza-Swiatek taking on Sabalenka-Kontaveit.
Best of the rest 🎾
Karolina Pliskova took a detour, eventually beating Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2. Pliskova missed two match points when serving for the match at 6-3 *5-4 and wasted a 4-1 lead in the second set tiebreak. Very un-Pliskova like but a win is a win. Next up is a Doha rematch with the red hot, Jessica Pegula.
In the longest match of the day, Belinda Bencic beat Veronika Kudermetova, 6-4 5-7 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes. Bencic and Kudermetova have now split their six meetings with four of the six matches going the distance.
Anastasia Potapova scored the third top 20 win of her career, beating Madison Keys, 6-4 6-2. Potapova broke Keys in seven of her nine service games.
Last week’s Doha champion, Petra Kvitova was forced to retire from her second round match down 2-6 4-3 due to a right thigh injury. Jill Teichmann advances to the last 16.
In the last match of the day, Ons Jabeur found her serve in the third set to defeat last year’s finalist, Elena Rybakina, 7-6(6) 4-6 6-2.
Hot shot 🔥
Favourite snap 📸
Nice shots by Jimmie48 of Aryna Sabalenka who is the new Doubles No.1!
Recommended media 📺
A thread of the Vondrousova-Gauff drama from @tennis_gifs on Twitter.
Day 4 watchlist 📺
(8) Iga Swiatek vs. (9) Garbiñe Muguruza 🔥🔥🔥
(3) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (15) Anett Kontaveit
(2) Karolina Pliskova vs. Jessica Pegula
No data points on Muguruza-Swiatek but my instinct is Iga? I’m going for the Pegula upset again.