Sunday saw the beginning of the round-one action at the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the tournament started out with a bang, featuring two highly dramatic and lengthy first-round matches.
Held inside the famous Aviation Club Tennis Centre, the Dubai event alternates its WTA Premier 5 status with the event in Doha each season. In 2015, Dubai is the bigger of the two tournaments, once again attracting a star-studded lineup of players.
Initially, the tournament would have featured nine out of the ten current Top 10 players, since only Maria Sharapova had planned to skip it. Unfortunately, Serena Williams won’t be making it to Dubai either, as the world #1 has opted to get some more rest before her surprising Indian Wells comeback in March, while Eugenie Bouchard, in a somewhat bizarre turn of events, first asked for a wildcard, only to pull out days after it was granted, citing a hand injury.
Nevertheless, there’s no lack of star power in Dubai. Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, as well as last year’s champion Venus Williams will all be fighting for glory inside the Aviation Club.
Monday saw the first round get underway and the event kicked into higher gear right away as spectators on center court were treated to two highly dramatic matches. The first highlight of the day was Julia Görges’ encounter with Flavia Pennetta. Initially, the match seemed to be nothing unusual, with the German edging out a comfortable lead that led to multiple match points.
Pennetta was able to fight off all four of them, turning the momentum in her favour. Görges more and more unraveled and the Italian got more steady as the match went on. After 2:18 hours, Pennetta took the match point in the third set, sending Görges packing after what almost looked like a done deal for the German crowd favorite.
Even more drama ensued when Alize Cornet faced off with Kirsten Flipkens. Just like the match before, the encounter initially looked like usual business, as Cornet was in firm control of the first set. Flipkens used the break between sets to get treatment for her knee and the WTA trainer seemed to have worked wonders, as the Belgian fought herself into the second set that climaxed in a drama-filled tiebreak in favour of Flipkens.
Being her usual fired-up self, Cornet pulled all the stops to turn the momentum, including multiple arguments with umpire Julie Kjendlie, a hindrance-call for yelling “Allez!” during a rally and plenty of emotional outbursts on the court.
Despite being up 3-0 in the third set, Flipkens failed to put the match to bed. Cornet refused to let up. The match clock showed a-hard-to-believe 3 hours and 11 minutes when Alize Cornet converted her first match point, handing Flipkens her second consecutive first-round loss.
Action will continue in Dubai tomorrow with no less than 12 singles matches on schedule. Monday will also see the Dubai debut of Daniela Hantuchova, the Slovakian who has just won the PTT Thailand Open in Pattaya and will be rushing over to the Middle East to arrive in time for her first match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.