Wednesday’s third round matches in Dubai were mostly routine with just the one three set match. There were a series of stand-out, statement performances which are covered in Wednesday’s Dubai diary. The draw has become rather lopsided with the top half having lost all of its seeds, while the bottom half boasts the three remaining seeds in the tournament along with one of the in-form players of 2021.
Day 4️⃣ Highlights
(9) Garbiñe Muguruza d. (8) Iga Swiatek, 6-0 6-4
In the most anticipated match of the day, Muguruza delivered another stunning display to snap Swiatek’s winning streak at six. I thought this was going to be much closer and Iga would nick it!
Swiatek had a poor serving day, which may have been partly induced from Muguruza’s overwhelming presence on return. Swiatek was serving at just 29% (!) first serves in in the first set and barely improved that to 44% in the second set. Muguruza was very sharp, taking the ball early and putting a lot of pressure on Swiatek who looked rushed and was overhitting at times.
In the second set, Swiatek managed to find her way into the rallies and was actually in a promising position, leading 4-3 on serve with a 15-30 opening on Muguruza’s serve. From there on, it was a tale of two forehands. Muguruza hit a trio of fabulous forehands to level up at 4-4. Swiatek’s forehand then faltered in the next game. I don’t think it’s easy to adjust when your opponent suddenly starts playing better and I thought Muguruza reacted to Swiatek’s improved level superbly. The door was starting to creak open and Muguruza slammed it shut with some force.
(3) Aryna Sabalenka d. (15) Anett Kontaveit, 6-3 6-2
This was an awesome display from Sabalenka. I think this is the most convinced i’ve been about Sabalenka since her breakthrough summer of 2018. Sabalenka was pretty much untouchable on serve. Kontaveit managed to bat a fair few returns back in play, but they were short and sitting up. Sabalenka swatted most of them away for winners.
Kontaveit played two poor service games to get broken, one in each set. The third break of Kontaveit’s serve was all about Sabalenka who produced some frankly outrageous ballstriking towards the end of the match. Kontaveit couldn’t handle Sabalenka’s power and depth. To be honest, i’m not sure anyone would have been up to the task.
Kontaveit has had a decent Middle East swing with losses to Kvitova and Sabalenka. Not too shabby. I’m not sure what Anett can do when she comes up against a big hitter on a good day. Sabalenka has been a bad match-up because Kontaveit always seems to run into her on a good day and when that happens, Sabalenka just does everything better.
Jessica Pegula d. (2) Karolina Pliskova, 6-0 6-2
This was one hell of a jarring scoreline. Pegula beat Pliskova, 6-3 6-1 in Doha last week. I didn’t expect it to be even more one-sided with Pegula winning this match in just 53 (!!!!!!) minutes. Pegula is exuding confidence right now. Just like their Doha clash, Pegula finished points expertly up at the net and dominated the baseline rallies with clean ballstriking.
Pliskova’s serve has always been the bedrock with which she builds her game around. It’s become increasingly suspect this year with another seven double faults in this match including one on match point. Pegula had a read on the Pliskova serve and returned very well. Obviously it wasn’t a factor in this match but Pliskova has been shaky with leads all year. I tend to urge caution when players go on a barren run. In this case for Pliskova, I am actually hitting the panic button.
Pegula has been an absolute revelation this year and she’s dropped just eight games in three matches in Dubai. She’s been ruthless with double and triple beatdowns of players. Pegula has beaten Pliskova twice this year for the loss of six games combined. In the previous round, Pegula beat Mladenovic for the third time this year for the loss of just 11 games combined!
Best of the rest 🎾
Anastasia Potapova made it back-to-back top 20 wins, beating Belinda Bencic, 6-1 2-6 7-5. Potapova played a terrific final game to close out the match with two aces and a thunderous down-the-line winner on match point. Potapova is now into a first WTA 1000 quarter-final.
Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff and Jill Teichmann all join Potapova in recording their best performances at this level with straight set wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tereza Martincova and Ons Jabeur respectively. One of them will reach a first ever WTA 1000 final.
Elise Mertens rounded out the final eight in Dubai with her second victory over Caroline Garcia this year, winning 6-4 6-2.
Best point 🎾
Super from Muguruza to deal with Swiatek’s variety.
A pair of niceee net exchanges!
Day 5 watchlist 📺
(3) Aryna Sabalenka vs. (9) Garbiñe Muguruza
(10) Elise Mertens vs. Jessica Pegula
Coco Gauff vs. Jill Teichmann
Barbora Krejcikova vs. Anastasia Potapova
Relishing a Muguruza-Sabalenka rematch after both delivered statement performances on Wednesday. I’m actually going for Sabalenka this time round. Mertens-Pegula should be a really interesting match. Pegula surely won’t sail through this one like her last three matches. Top half could go either way. I saw Potapova had to pull out of doubles after taking a ball to the eye so I hope she will be able to compete. Gauff has beaten Teichmann twice this year. A hat-trick on the cards? I wouldn’t be so sure!