DUBAI, UAE - No.7 seed Johanna Konta made a winning debut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, taking down Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets, 7-6(2), 6-2.
The victory extends Konta’s impressive record against Russian players, winning seven of her past eight matches. Konta also becomes the first British woman to win a main draw match in Dubai tournament history.
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“I’m very happy to have come through that,” Konta said in her on-court interview. “She’s definitely a tricky player. She plays very well and she doesn’t give you much rhythm with the weight of her shots.
“I came to Dubai last year, but I didn’t get to play. I’m just very happy that I was able to give myself another chance to compete.”
Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the quarterfinals in 2010 but has yet to advance past the first round since, started off the match in fine form against Konta. She absorbed the Brit’s pace very effectively off the ground and Konta struggled to put first serves in. Pavlyuchenkova was rewarded with an early break to lead 3-2.
But Konta finally found her rhythm and surged back, hitting her groundstrokes with renewed aggression and breaking back at 4-4 as Pavlyuchenkova’s serve began to misfire. The Russian had three break points in the next game to get back in the lead, but Konta held her off to send them into a tiebreak.
Pavlyuchenkova’s service woes only seemed to multiply in the decider, hitting three double faults and racking up the unforced errors to let Konta pull away, building a 5-1 lead before taking the set.
From that point on it was one-way traffic for Konta, reeling off eight straight points to start the second set 2-0. Pavlyuchenkova was able to get on the board after a lengthy medical time out, but she was never able to recover the break as Konta claimed the win after an hour and 44 minutes.
Konta finished the match with 16 winners, and did well to weather Pavlyuchenkova’s 22 - most of which came in the tight opening set. The Brit also hit 17 unforced errors - but Pavlyuchenkova far outpaced her with 40, including 12 double faults.
Through to the second round, the Brit will look face yet another Russian players as she takes on Daria Kasatkina, who stunned former champion Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-4 earlier in the day.
“[Kasatkina] is an incredibly talented player, she’s been playing very well for the last couple of years. Like with any match, it’s going to be tough. I’ll be looking forward to playing well and enjoy competing again.”