WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | Find out how Caroline Wozniacki is getting along with Sascha Bajin while Americans Alison Riske and Catherine Bellis earn big upsets in Dubai.
WTA Staff

DUBAI, UAE - Day 2 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships got underway in earnest as Monica Puig and Kristina Mladenovic scored solid wins while former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki put on a decisive display against young Russian Daria Kasatkina.

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Caroline Wozniacki welcomes Sascha Bajin to the team.

Less than 48 hours after playing the final at the Qatar Total Open, Caroline Wozniacki was back on court in Dubai, scoring a solid 6-2, 7-5 win over Daria Kasatkina in the first round. In her player's box for the second week in the row was a familiar face, Sascha Bajin, former hitting partner to Serena Williams and coach to Victoria Azarenka. Wozniacki and Bajin are working together until Charleston, when they plan to re-evaluate the set-up, but so far so good. The Dane is now 5-1 since their partnership began last week.

With the experience he brings to the table, Bajin is more than just a traveling hitting partner for Wozniacki. He's more of a "hitting partner plus".

"He helps my dad," Wozniacki said. "He looks at the matches, too. He scouts and they talk a lot what they feel I can improve on and things like that. He comes with inputs and practices. He's definitely a hitter plus. Assistant coach, I guess."

Before joining forces with Bajin, Wozniacki said she ran the arrangement past Serena to get her blessing.

"I definitely talked to Serena about it," Wozniacki said. "Just wanted to hear. And also how she feels about me working with him. You just want to know that you don't clash. She said he's a very hard worker, and she has nothing bad to say about him. She likes him a lot."

The Americans run wild on Day 2.

Alison Riske got the better of her Fed Cup teammate CoCo Vandeweghe, putting in a focused effort to knock out the No.11 seed 6-4, 6-4. Christina McHale beat No.13 seed Kiki Bertens 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, while Catherine Bellis notched the most surprising result of the day, beating Yulia Putintseva 6-1 7-5.

The shortest straw had to go to Riske, who just over a week ago was playing alongside Vandeweghe in Hawaii for her Fed Cup debut. Riske admitted the match-up was awkward, but with the insurgence of Americans in the Top 100, it's something they're all going to have to get used to.

"It can be difficult, especially we just had the best week together at Fed Cup. So it was unfortunate that we played each other first round. But at the end of the day you have to focus on you, and there are so many Americans now in the top. We are all friends, or at least I feel like we are," she said with a laugh.

"We're going to be [playing] each other week in and week out, and it's something that we've got to get used to. You just have to focus on you and not worry about the other person on the other side of net."

CiCi Bellis starts her season with an upset.

Catherine Bellis' start of the season was derailed by hamstring and glute injuries, forcing her to skip January. In her first main draw match of the year, the 17-year-old American conjured a stunning comeback, rallying from 1-5 down in the second set to beat St. Petersburg finalist Yulia Putintseva 6-1, 7-5.

"I got myself in a bit of trouble in the second set, but I'm glad I got out of it," Bellis said. "I just thought to myself, stick to my game plan, just keep steady, I can come back.

"I can come back against anyone I set my mind to. I'm really glad I got through it."

The youngest player ranked in the Top 100, Bellis said her two qualifying matches last week in Doha helped her find her match rhythm quickly. "I think it was a little bit nerve-wracking just in certain parts of it, because I'm still getting used to matches again and getting back into the season. But I think it went well. I didn't feel too rusty."

Kristina Mladenovic readies for the Pliskova challenge.

The Frenchwoman is on a roll as of late, winning six of her last seven matches, including a strong 6-3, 6-3 win over Katerina Siniakova on Monday. Next up? The hottest player on tour: Karolina Pliskova.

"It's a big challenge. First of all, we know each other very well. I mean, we are great friends. We always had tough matches, especially the last one."

Last season, Mladenovic finished her singles season with a 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 loss to Pliskova in the Fed Cup final. It's a match that still haunts her. "When I think about it, I still have the 'I don't want to see you that soon again' [feeling]," Mladenovic said laughing. "That was a long one that I had in my mind for quite a long time because it was at the end of the season, and it was a tough one, a tough loss for our team.

"But she's definitely up there, on fire, like full confidence, I have to say. She's been improving like for the last two or three years like all the time and being now like a serious tough player, like she proved it with lots of titles already. And especially her game, it's tough. It's tough to play. You know, you have to be very, very consistent, try to read her serve, especially. That's her biggest weapon. So I'm expecting a very difficult match."

Ana Konjuh drops just one game to Zhang Shuai.

The 19-year-old rolled in her opening match, winning 6-0, 6-1 to score the first main draw win of her career in Dubai. Next she'll get her first look at No.12 seed Sam Stosur. When asked if there are any specific players she's looking forward to playing for the first time, the Croatian teenager's eyes lit up.

"I haven't played Serena," she said with bit smile. "And I grew up watching her, and I think it will be a dream come true to share the court. I think, you know, she's a legend. Hopefully that day is gonna come soon."