DUBAI, UAE - Agnieszka Radwanska battled past a young Kazakh on the rise in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, and due to some circumstances that were out of her control, the Pole is now a strong favorite for the title as we move into the quarterfinals.
Facing 18-year-old Kazakh wildcard Yulia Putintseva, the No.3-seeded Radwanska had to battle back from a break down three times in the first set and once more in the second set but won, 75 63.
"It's always tough playing someone you don't know, and also the first match of the week is always tricky," Radwanska said afterwards. "But even when I didn't play my best tennis today I was really fighting for every point, and I'm just happy I could come back in the first set and win it in two sets."
Radwanska talked about how it feels to be the defending champion with such a strong field out to take her title. "Well it's always a bit of pressure, and obviously it's a strong tournament here," she said. "But every match I will have nothing to lose because I'm playing such good players now. Of course I'll do everything in my power to hold the trophy again at the end of the week and have the title."
Putintseva had never played against anyone ranked higher than No.20 in the world before. "I take a lot of experience from this match," she commented. "I think it's a big step in my career to play against a Top 5 player for the first time. I think it's great. I enjoyed the moment a lot and I'm quite happy with what I did on the court. We'll see if I can do better next time - we'll see how it will go."
Next up for Radwanska is No.6 seed Petra Kvitova, who edged Ana Ivanovic in a tight two-setter, 75 76(1). Kvitova had a little trouble closing out Ivanovic in each set - she originally led 5-1 in the first set and 5-3 in the second set - but she eventually closed them both out to advance past the former No.1.
"I started the match pretty well - I started without mistakes and everything, and I thought, 'It can't be like this all match,'" Kvitova said. "Then Ana started to play quite aggressively from there. She was serving quite well, and my serve wasn't as good as it was before, so I was having some trouble. She came back in the match, and it was quite tough for my nerves too, but I'm glad I did it in the end."
"She started impeccable," Ivanovic said of Kvitova's play. "There wasn't much I did wrong. I thought it was a high quality match. I'm disappointed I didn't use some opportunities I had towards the end of both sets, but it was really close, which is good. Just a few points here and there to decide it.
"Petra is a very clean striker of the ball. Especially when she hits it in the sweet spot it's very hard to pick up where she's going to go, too. You sort of have to choose and commit to one side."
Kvitova has won three of her four previous meetings with Radwanska and talked about the match-up afterwards. "She likes to play here - she won last year," Kvitova said. "Last time I played her was in Istanbul and I lost, so I'm looking for revenge, for sure, but it will be a very tough match. She's a really smart player and is thinking a lot on the court, so she knows exactly what she has to play and where I will play. I have to play my game and not have a lot of mistakes if I want to win tomorrow."
Other seeds in action were No.7 seed Sam Stosur, who hit seven aces to beat Hsieh Su-Wei, 64 60; No.8 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who needed 54 minutes to beat Zheng Jie, 60 61; No.4 seed Angelique Kerber, who was the only seeded casualty of the day session, hitting 10 double faults en route to a 75 61 loss to Roberta Vinci; and No.5 seed Sara Errani, who beat Sorana Cirstea at night, 64 64.