DUBAI, UAE – Kristina Mladenovic moved into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-4, 6-3 win over fellow qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The Frenchwoman came into the match nearly 80 places better off in the WTA Rankings but faced a 4-1 career head-to-head deficit against the Belarusian on Tour, including a 0-3 record in their previous hard court matches.
All those previous matches on the concrete went to three sets, but there was rarely any danger of a repeat in Dubai, where the WTA World No.38 was the dominant player as she made the second round for a second successive year.
This was the fourth match of the tournament for both, as they had successfully negotiated three qualifying rounds. It was Mladenovic, who had overcome Polona Hercog and Daria Kasatkina to make the main draw, who looked the more confident player, with Sasnovich having lost nine of her previous 10 top-level matches.
Despite a convincing win over No.10 seed Anna Blinkova in qualifying, Sasnovich struggled to translate a high first-serve percentage into points and was prone to making unforced errors as Mladenovic edged an opening set that saw seven breaks.
The WTA World No.114 certainly had her chances as she led three times, yet loose play allowed Mladenovic to storm through and take the final three games of the set, breaking twice and sealing the opener with a powerful inside-out forehand return.
Mladenovic’s streak continued at the beginning of the second, claiming another three straight games to establish a healthy advantage.
Even after Sasnovich got on the board, the Fed Cup winner came through a lengthy service game and was then given a let off when her opponent fired wide after beautifully working a chance to go up 0-30 when Mladenovic next had the balls.
With one hour and 33 minutes on the clock, the match was hers. On her third match point, she crunched a forehand winner to secure a first main draw victory of 2020.
Next up Mladenovic will face No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova in what will be a repeat of her Australian Open first round match, in which she was beaten in straight sets.
However, she did record a 6-2, 6-4 win when the pair met in Dubai back in 2017, a success she will seek to reprise.