DUBAI, UAE – WTA World No.35 Barbora Strycova showed all of her battling abilities to overcome Amanda Anisimova, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
She came into the match having posted just a single WTA Tour victory in 2019 and having lost her only previous meeting against the American in Auckland last year.
But whereas that encounter was a comfortable straight-sets victory for the teenager, it was Strycova’s experience and fighting spirit that told over two hours and 33 minutes in the hot desert heat.
Strycova, who had lost her last five against opponents from the United States, played the more consistent game, making only 43 unforced errors compared to her opponents’ 64, while she peaked at the big moments, winning 100 points – four fewer than her rival.
“It was a tough match because of the conditions. The balls are light and it’s flying. You want to keep the ball in the court but if you time it late, it’s flying everywhere,” she said.
“I didn’t really feel great on court because I wasn’t really striking the ball how I wanted. These matches, when you don’t play your best and you win, it gives you confidence and helps you realize you can win even if you don’t play a great match. It meant a lot to me.”
Anisimova struggled to find her rhythm initially, with the opening game encapsulating her first set. Two fine winners opened up a healthy advantage before some wayward groundstrokes allowed her opponent back into it, with a couple of kind bounces off the net giving the Czech an early break.
Indeed, the American would be the more proactive player for the majority of the opener but on the big points she was prone to making errors as the 2016 finalist showcased the tenacity and competitiveness that has been such a feature of her career.
After Anisimova’s big hitting drew her back level in the set, she was immediately broken again due to unforced mistakes, although that same gung-ho attitude that had brought those missteps allowed her to break to love and then subsequently hold without dropping a point.
Her game, however, rather folded in the tiebreak, which was riddled by errors and escaped her as Strycova proved the more consistent player.
The momentum that Anisimova had been building towards the end of the first, however, was re-established in the early part of the second. A stunning backhand down the line propelled her to a break in the opening game and after an easy hold she added insurance to her advantage as she started to find her mark increasingly regularly, much to the frustration of her opponent.
With Strycova’s serve lacking in velocity, the French Open semifinalist pounced to make it 5-0, and though she was broken, it simply postponed the inevitable as she levelled the match.
Towards the end of the second set, Anisimova had looked a little jaded, which prompted a medical timeout, but despite this she maintained the upper hand on court as the 33-year-old struggled to find a solution to her hard hitting.
Strycova’s ability to hang in proved critical, however. The unforced errors that plagued Anisimova in the first set began to return in her service games, and though she twice moved a break clear, she was pegged back on both occasions.
And it proved the Czech had timed her run perfectly, claiming five of the last six games to take the win, sealing it by breaking Anisimova to 15 with a perfectly delivered angled dropshot.
“I was talking to myself in the third set a lot, telling myself to keep fighting, keep spinning the ball and keep moving my legs. I played my best tennis of the match then,” she said.
“The most confident I was in the match was in the middle of the third set at 3-3.
“But I’m happy to get through.”
In the second round she could face No.8 seed Petra Martic or doubles partner Hsieh Su-Wei, with who she will defend their title this week.