DUBAI, UAE -- No.12 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain picked up a three-set win over one of her recent nemeses in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday, overcoming Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the second round.
18-year-old Yastremska had been 4-0 in sets against Muguruza over the last four months, including in a quarterfinal victory on her way to winning her second WTA singles title in Hua Hin earlier this season. But after losing a fifth consecutive set to Yastremska, Muguruza turned the match around and clinched victory on her seventh match point, after two hours and six minutes of play.
"I think [Yastremska] is one of the hardest hitters on the tour right now, but I think I played better [this time] and that’s the key," Muguruza told the media after her win.
"I think my serve was better, I think I was holding my court better than the previous time I played her, just little details," Muguruza continued. "But she’s with a lot of confidence."
Both players were charged with many more unforced errors than winners, but it was Muguruza who put together the overall cleaner match, and she pulled off eight service breaks to Yastremska's six. Yastremska, the only teenager in the Top 50 at World No.34, could save just three of Muguruza's 11 break points.
"It’s not easy when you lose the first set, you’re kind of a little disappointed, and I managed to forget about it," said Muguruza. "It doesn’t happen every day, and I’m happy with the three-set [win]. I think all of these matches are going to count at the end of the year."
World No.15 Muguruza, who reached her second career Dubai semifinal last year, will now face China's Zheng Saisai in the second round. Zheng outlasted Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, in a first-round tilt earlier on Sunday.
It was a returner’s paradise at the outset of the encounter, as Yastremska and Muguruza combined for eight break points in the first four games, exchanging breaks to get to 2-2. Yastremska finally quashed that run, holding for 3-2 with an ace, and the Ukrainian broke once more on the fourth break point of that game to take a 4-2 lead.
Muguruza rebounded, breaking back directly and holding serve for the first time with a forehand winner down the line to reach 4-4. But Yastremska broke Muguruza once more at 5-4, sealing the opening frame after a forehand by the Spaniard flew wide. Muguruza won less than 20 percent of points on her second serve in the first set.
But Muguruza pulled herself together in the second set right away, finding some big service returns to break Yastremska at love and lead 2-1. The Spaniard then steeled herself to fend off two break points before holding for 3-1.
Muguruza extended her lead to 5-2, and even though she ceded a break back to Yastremska while serving for the set, the teenager was unable to capitalize at 5-3, squandering a 40-15 lead with two double faults en route to being broken. Yastremska’s five-set winning streak against Muguruza ended, as the Ukrainian had 19 unforced errors to only four winners in that set.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza continued her momentum in the decider, racing out to a 4-1 lead as a weary Yastremska struggled to maintain consistency on her groundstrokes. The teenager had to stare down a match point on her serve at 5-2, but erased Muguruza’s chance with an ace, holding for 5-3 and putting the pressure on the Spaniard to serve out the win.
Indeed, pressure occurred in the next game, as Yastremska went for broke on returns and forehands to stave off five more match points, each of which Muguruza had earned with aggressive serving and movement into the forecourt. Finally, Yastremska slapped a return wide on Muguruza’s seventh match point, giving the former World No.1 the victory over a very challenging opponent.