No.15 seed Elina Svitolina collected a hard-earned victory over a fellow Ukrainian in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday night.

Svitolina, ranked World No.20, outlasted 32nd-ranked Anhelina Kalinina 6-3, 7-6(7) to reach the second round in Dubai for the seventh time in her career. Svitolina had to erase three set points in the second set before closing out the 1-hour and 40-minute victory.

Ups and downs in Dubai: Between 2016 and 2019, Svitolina was the dominant player in Dubai. The former World No.3 reached the semifinals in 2016 before winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. Svitolina returned to the semifinals in 2019 and went 15-2 in Dubai in that four-year span.

Since then, though, Svitolina has struggled to pick up wins at this tournament. She lost in the first round in 2020 and 2021 and the second round in 2022.

Svitolina will attempt to rekindle her Dubai magic after battling past Kalinina, which was a showdown between two of the five Ukrainians clustered between No.20 and No.34 in the WTA rankings. Svitolina has never lost to a fellow Ukrainian on hardcourt (now 6-0).

"It's a great tournament here," Svitolina said afterwards. "I'm really happy to be back in the city, back on the center court. Have so many great memories. Brings back, really, joy for me."

Match moments: Svitolina eased through the first set, hitting 14 winners to just five unforced errors. Those 14 winners included five of her seven aces on the day.

But things were much trickier in the second set, where a winning forehand putaway by Kalinina gave the unseeded player double set point at 5-4. Svitolina fought her way out of that peril and the set eventually moved into a tiebreak.

In the topsy-turvy breaker, Kalinina led 5-3 before Svitolina swept to her first match point at 6-5. Kalinina held firm and grabbed her third set point at 7-6, but three consecutive winners from there allowed Svitolina to close out a challenging second set and move into the second round.

Despite the plethora of critical moments, only one break point was converted all evening, by Svitolina in the second game of the match. Svitolina went 1-for-3 while Kalinina missed on all three of hers.


Next up: Svitolina will take on 54th-ranked Tatjana Maria in the second round on Tuesday. Maria, currently the top-ranked German on tour, breezed past France's Varvara Gracheva 6-2, 6-1 on Sunday.

Svitolina and Maria have evenly split their six professional meetings, although they have not faced each other since Svitolina's straight-sets win over Maria at the 2018 US Open.