Home Sports Iga Swiatek sweeps past Stephens to seal last 16 spot at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Iga Swiatek sweeps past Stephens to seal last 16 spot at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

by Staff Reporter
Iga Swiatek sweeps past Stephens to seal last 16 spot at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

World No1 Iga Swiatek and World No3 Coco Gauff are safely into the last 16 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after safely navigating potentially tricky challenges on Dubai Tennis Stadium’s Centre Court on Monday evening.

With No2 seed Aryna Sabalenka sent tumbling earlier in the day Swiatek would have been eager to avoid similar fate against experienced American Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion. And the top seed delivered, coming through a tactical battle to see off Stephens 6-4, 6-4 and set up a clash with Elina Svitolina, a winner of this tournament in 2017 and 2018.

Gauff, meanwhile, faced a different challenge against Dubai debutant Elisabetta Cocciaretto, but looked confident to seal a straight sets victory 6-1, 7-5 in just over an hour and 40 minutes.

Swiatek didn’t have it all her own way against Stephens, who secured an early break of serve to take a 2-1 lead. An unforced error on break point on her own serve in the very next game restored parity but the experienced American atoned for her mistake straight away, taking on the Swiatek serve to record a double break with some aggressive tennis. The pair proceeded to trade breaks in games six through eight.

But Swiatek started to show why she is the world’s top-ranked player, holding serve and taking out Stephens’ serve for a fourth time to seal the first set.

With both players seemingly still trying to work each other out, the second set got off to a cagey start. Swiatek, fresh off victory in Doha last week, held serve to take the opening game. Yet Stephens refused to be outgunned by a player ranked 40 places above her in the opening exchanges and held firm to take the set to 4-4.

After holding serve in game nine, the 2023 Dubai finalist Swiatek turned up the power in Stephens’ next service game to take a 6-4, 6-4 victory and move into the last 16, where she will face 15th seed Svitolina.

After safely securing her passage through, the Polish ace is hoping to at least match her performance in Dubai last year.

“I knew after last year’s experience I could adjust [coming to Dubai straight from Qatar] and be able to do it. No doubt Sloane played really well, and it was a very interesting match,” said Swiatek.

“I was putting a lot of power in my shots, but she was coping really well, so I had to focus more on tactics and I’m happy that I got through. I’m just going to keep trying to play my best this week.”

Third seed Coco Gauff joins Swiatek in the next round after producing a powerful performance to see off Italy’s Cocciaretto 6-1, 7-5.

Gauff, a semi-finalist here last year, raced into a two-game lead in Monday’s final match on Centre Court. Cocciaretto broke back in game three, but Gauff, the reigning US Open champion powered through the next four games to take the opening set.

In the second set, Gauff broke her opponent’s serve in consecutive games to race into a 3-0 lead. But Cocciaretto was in no mood to be rolled over and hit back with three breaks of her own to level the set at 3-3 and then 4-4.

That seemed to be the wake up call the US Open champion needed and she broke serve again to take a 5-4 lead. Despite an immediate response, Gauff stood firm to see out the next two games to seal victory.

“I was playing well and I was close to making it 4-0 [in the second set] and I just lost focus. She also started to be a bit more consistent and aggressive. It was a tough match but it’s in the past now and we just keep moving forward,” said a relieved Gauff.

Gauff’s opponent in the next round is Karolina Pliskova, a beaten finalist in Dubai in 2015, who recovered from losing a first set tie-break to register a 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Ashlyn Krueger.

Elsewhere, No6 seed Qinwen Zheng survived a scare, battling back from a set down to beat Japanese qualifier Nao Hibino 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 to book her place in the last 16.

tanvir@dubainewsweek.com

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