Ons Jabeur led a group of early winners into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships as main-draw matches kicked off on Sunday in the U.A.E.
The 31st-ranked Jabeur of of Tunisia eased past Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 to reach the second round for the fourth time at this event.
Jabeur, coming off a close loss to Karolina Pliskova in Doha last week, won her 10th career main-draw match in the Middle East with her 65-minute victory over World No.68 Siniakova.
Siniakova had won her first five encounters with Jabeur before the Tunisian turned the tables with a victory in Doha last year. Jabeur made it two in a row against Siniakova in Dubai on Sunday, converting four of her nine break points and slamming 16 winners, four more than the Czech.
Siniakova was also undone by 27 unforced errors in the match, as she fell to 0-3 in singles in 2021.
Jabeur was helped along by strong forehands in the opening frame, using that shot to break for the initial 3-1 lead. After a love hold for 5-2, Jabeur was assisted by a double fault from Siniakova on her second set point in the following game.
After falling behind an early break in the second set, Siniakova grabbed her only service break to tie up the clash at 2-2. But Jabeur took the initiative as both players charged to the net more frequently as the set wore on, retaking the break advantage at 4-2. Another strong forehand by Jabeur forced an error from Siniakova to convert her second match point and close out victory.
Gauff survives nail-biter against Alexandrova: American teenager Coco Gauff earned a whisker-thin victory in her Dubai debut, edging past Ekaterina Alexandrova, 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(8) in the evening session.
Sitting at a career-high ranking of World No.38 after a semifinal run at Adelaide two weeks ago, Gauff had a hefty lead in the final set, leading 5-1, and served for the match at 5-2, 5-4, and 6-5, holding four match points at 5-4.
But Alexandrova got her way out of each of those jams, pulling Gauff all the way into the decisive tiebreak. Gauff, 16, then had to save two match points in the breaker at 6-5 and 8-7 before taking the final three points to grit out victory in a grueling 2 hours and 40 minutes.
"There were times when we both could have thrown in the towel and gave up, but we both were mentally fighting," Gauff said after the match. "I think it's just one of those that you're happy that it's over, and happy that you fought through it."
Gauff turns 17 on Saturday -- the day of the Dubai singles final.
"That'd be a pretty good birthday gift, to make it to the final," Gauff said.
Krejcikova upsets Sakkari: The only seeded player in action Sunday was upset, as Barbora Krejcikova knocked off No.16 seed Maria Sakkari 6-2, 7-6(4) to reach the second round.
In their only previous meeting, Krejcikova won in straight sets when they played as teenagers in the final of an ITF Challenger event in 2014. Seven years later, Krejcikova repeated the feat, upsetting the World No.25 to improve to 3-3 against Top 50 players so far this season.
Krejcikova was 4-for-9 on break points as she took the win in 1 hour, 45 minutes in her Dubai main-draw debut.
After a breezy opening set, Krejcikova was pushed by Sakkari in the second. It took Krejcikova nearly 12 minutes to hold for 5-3, and she was unable to convert a match point on the Sakkari serve in the following game.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Krejcikova could not polish off the win, as Sakkari at last got her first break of the day. Miscues by Sakkari gave Krejcikova a second chance to serve for the match at 6-5, but Sakkari extended the rallies to force errors, and was rewarded with another break as the pair moved into the tiebreak.
Krejcikova eased to a 5-3 lead in the breaker and held on from there, setting up a second-round clash with either Jelena Ostapenko or Patricia Maria Tig.
Russians rewarded: Earlier in the day session on Centre Court, a pair of Russians advanced to the second round.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova earned a comeback victory over Wang Qiang 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to notch the 20th Dubai main-draw match-win of her career.
Kuznetsova, a three-time Dubai finalist (2004, 2008, and 2011), is making her 13th appearance at Dubai, but her first showing since 2016.
Kuznetsova had to dig deep before outlasting Wang in 2 hours and 21 minutes. Wang served for the match at 5-4 in the decider, but Kuznetsova successfully broke back for 5-5, eventually winning the final three games of the affair to clinch the comeback win.
Next up for Kuznetsova will be a second-round match against No.1 seed Elina Svitolina.
Veronika Kudermetova followed on Centre Court by booking her spot in the second round with a 7-6(3), 6-2 triumph over fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
After dropping their first meeting, Pavlyuchenkova had won their two most recent clashes, which both came at the end of the 2019 season. This time, though, it was Kudermetova who got the better of Pavlyuchenkova in 1 hour, 45 minutes to level their head-to-head at 2-2.
Kudermetova, who reached the final at the season-opening event in Abu Dhabi (losing to Aryna Sabalenka), converted four of her six break points on the day to snap a three-match losing streak dating back to her third-round loss to Simona Halep at the Australian Open.
Kudermetova will now face recent Adelaide finalist and No.6 seed Belinda Bencic in the second round.
Alizé Cornet prevented a perfect day session for the Russians, though, as she moved past Daria Kasatina 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Court 1 to set up a second-round meeting with No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia also won her first-round match, defeating American Bernarda Pera, 6-0, 6-3.