x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bartoli shows mental strength to fend off Date-Krumm

The world No 15 only managed four days practice since tearing a calf muscle on her right leg last month, but she managed to hold off a determined opponent at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Women's Championships.

Marion Bartoli donned a long-sleeved jacket to protect her from the elements at Dubai's Aviation Club.
Marion Bartoli donned a long-sleeved jacket to protect her from the elements at Dubai's Aviation Club.

DUBAI // Marion Bartoli continued her comeback from injury with a laborious 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 victory over Kimiko Date-Krumm, the Japanese veteran, under a chilly night sky on the opening evening of the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships at the Aviation Club.

The world No 15 only managed four days practice since tearing a calf muscle on her right leg last month, but she showed mental strength to hold off a determined opponent.

Date-Krumm, 40, retired in 1996 before returning 13 years later to become the oldest player on the Tour and, a year later, the oldest to rank in the top 50 since Billie Jean King in 1984. Yet for all her years, she provided Bartoli – 14 years her junior – a stern challenge.

“It was a very tricky first round,” Bartoli said. “Kimiko is really tough to play against. She moves extremely well, she hits it very fast and low, so it is hard to get it back. You cannot hit any winners against her and it is never over for her.

“It is a great relief to win my first match back after injury – even if it was tough, I think I handled myself pretty well and never got too upset even when I was making a few mistakes. I was really pleased with how I played and I am sure I will get even better.”

With a cool breeze forcing both players to adorn long-sleeved sports tops, Bartoli started the strongest with Date-Krumm struggling against the high intensity of her opponent's game. The 2007 Wimbledon finalist showed no signs of ring-rustiness as she raced to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, but her concentration wavered and Date-Krumm, now ranked 55 in the world, held serve before breaking back twice in succession to reverse the power struggle and take a 5-4 lead.

Bartoli immediately recovered to balance the set at 5-5, but she looked shaken and when, on her serve and poised at 40-30, she produced a double-fault, the conclusion looked ominous. Yet, the 26-year-old rallied, closing out the game and, following a determined display by Date-Krumm, eventually triumphing in the tie-break.

The second set ran a similar pattern, with Bartoli again taking an early lead, breaking immediately in the first game before holding serve twice to take a 3-1 lead. But Date-Krumm refused to surrender, fighting her way back into the tie with her infectious enthusiasm and tenacious, testing groundstrokes. However, just as it seemed the Japanese was about to turn the tables on her opponent with the set poised at 3-3, Bartoli found reserves once again to book her place in tomorrow's second round where she will met Timea Bacsinszky who had earlier defeated Iveta Benesova.

“We live 20 minutes away from each other in Switzerland,” Bartoli said. “So we know each other very well, but have never met each other on the Tour so it will be the first time and I am sure it will be a tough match.”

Earlier results:

Ahmed Rizvi from the Aviation Club:

Alisa Kleybanova, the 15th seed and world No 22, battled back from a set down to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and take her place in the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Pavlyuchenkova, the world No 15 who had to come through the qualifiers after a late sign-in, clinched the opening set 6-4, but then lost the next by an identical scoreline. In the decider, Kleybanova romped through without dropping a game.

Alisa Kleybanova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 4-6, 6-4, 6-0

 

Gary Meenaghan reports:

Zhang Shuai, the world No 92, has highlighted China’s growing stature in women’s tennis this afternoon with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win over Yaroslava Shvedova, the Kazakhstani 23-year-old positioned 53 places above Shuai in the official rankings.

Li Na became the first Chinese tennis player to reach a major final when she met Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open last month and the People’s Republic has been simmering just below the sport’s spotlight ever since.

In yesterday’s qualifying, Shuai and compatriot Peng Shuai both progressed, while Na, ranked seventh in the world and seeded fifth, has been given a bye into Wednesday’s second round. Zhang now meets reigning French Open champion Francesca Shiavone in the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Zhang Shuai beat Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 6-4

 

Gary Meenaghan starts off with this update:

2.15 pm: The South African Chanelle Scheepers dispatched Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-2,6-2 under the midday sun in the opening match of the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships at the Aviation Club.

Scheepers, who will now face the tournament's sixth seed Jelena Jankovic in round two, appeared to benefit from having played an earlier qualifying match, while 24-year-old Kirilenko struggled to deal with her opponent's line-hugging forehands and suffered a series of unforced errors in her first match since defeat to Galina Voskoboeva in Pattaya last week.

"I made too many mistakes," Kirilenko said. "Every ball was a mistake. I just need practice - I had some in Pattaya, but maybe not enough, so I am still trying to find my game."

 

What: Dubai DDF Women's Championships

Where: Aviation Club

When: Today to February 20

Prize money: US$2 million (Dh7,345,800)

Champion: Venus Williams

Daily tickets: Dh50 from day one through four; Dh150 on day five; Dh200 on day six; Dh250 on day seven (finals)

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae