Naomi Osaka squares off against Kristina Mladenovic on the first day of main draw play at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Alex Macpherson
February 19, 2018

CENTRE COURT (starts 2pm)
Elena VESNINA (RUS) vs PENG Shuai (CHN) 

Not before 7pm
[WC] Naomi OSAKA (JPN) vs [8] Kristina MLADENOVIC (FRA) 
[7] [WC] Johanna KONTA (GBR) vs Anastasia PAVLYUCHENKOVA (RUS)

COURT 1 (starts 12.30pm)
Qualifying - [2] Lesia TSURENKO (UKR) vs [6] Zarina DIYAS (KAZ) 
Qualifying - [3] [WC] Samantha STOSUR (AUS) vs [8] Maria SAKKARI (GRE) 

Not before 3pm
Ekaterina MAKAROVA (RUS) vs Anastasija SEVASTOVA (LAT) 
Raquel ATAWO (USA) / Anna-Lena GROENEFELD (GER) vs [3] Lucie SAFAROVA (CZE) / Barbora STRYCOVA (CZE)

COURT 3 (starts 12.30pm)
Qualifying - [4] WANG Qiang (CHN) vs Sofya ZHUK (RUS) 
Qualifying - [10] Aryna SABALENKA (BLR) vs Sara ERRANI (ITA) 

Not before 3.30pm
Miyu KATO (JPN) / Makoto NINOMIYA (JPN) vs [WC] Lisa PONOMAR (GER) / Eden SILVA (GBR)

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Peng Shuai and Elena Vesnina will resume a rivalry today that stretches back to 2006, when a 20-year-old Peng defeated a 19-year-old Vesnina 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of Roland Garros. Since then, the Chinese player has taken a 6-4 lead in the head-to-head, including 4-1 on hard courts and straight-sets victories in both their previous Middle East meetings: 6-3, 6-3 in Doha qualifying in 2011, and 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of Dubai in 2015. Peng is still searching for her first win of 2018, though, having gone 0-3 to start the season, while Vesnina's record for the year is just 2-4.

No.8 seed Kristina Mladenovic will face 20-year-old wildcard Naomi Osaka for the first time today. The Japanese player, who has re-entered the Top 50 this week, is bidding for her 10th career Top 20 win and third of the year already following victories over Elena Vesnina and Ashleigh Barty at the Australian Open.

Two former champions are in action today: 2016 winner Sara Errani plays her final qualifying round against Aryna Sabalenka, while 2012 victor Agnieszka Radwanska takes on Daria Kasatkina. The Pole is unseeded here for the first time since her main draw debut in 2008, when she qualified and lost to No.6 seed Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 in the first round; she has also lost her only previous encounter with Kasatkina, the Russian triumphing 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in Beijing last year.

No.7 seed Johanna Konta will make her debut in Dubai today against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who has been playing this tournament since 2009. The Russian, however, has just a 1-3 record in 2018 so far, and is on a five-match losing streak in Dubai: since reaching the quarterfinals in 2010, she has fallen in the first round to Alisa Kleybanova, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Karolina Pliskova and Ons Jabeur - and none of the three sometime World No.1s who defeated her were ranked in the Top 10 at the time of playing.

In qualifying, No.2 seed Lesia Tsurenko will seek to overturn a 0-2 head-to-head against No.6 seed Zarina Diyas. The Kazakh has triumphed in straight sets in both their previous encounters, 7-6(6), 6-2 in Moscow qualifying in 2010 and 6-1, 6-2 in the first round of the 2014 US Open. Meanwhile, 2015 Wimbledon girls' champion Sofya Zhuk will take on No.4 seed Wang Qiang in a bid to qualify for her second WTA-level main draw following last year's US Open.