x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Surprise as French Open semi-finalist Stosur wilts in the sunshine

Samantha Stosur, the ninth-seeded Australian, was a surprise first round casualty yesterday as she was edged out by Italy's Tathiana Garbin.

DUBAI // Samantha Stosur, the ninth-seeded Australian, was a surprise first round casualty yesterday, as the French Open semi-finalist was edged out of a tense battle with Italy's Tathiana Garbin in a tie-break decider to the final set. An exhausted Garbin raised her arms under the baking sun after hitting a clinching passing shot which secured a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 passage into a second round meeting with Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Stosur looked like she had the measure of her 54th-ranked rival when she broke to go clear at the start of the final set and then achieved another service break in the seventh game. But Garbin retrieved both of them and, despite being pegged back from 4-1 to 4-4 in the tie-break, she held her nerve to pounce on her victory opportunity when her first match point came her way after two hours and 21 minutes.

Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer, who rose to prominence last year by winning her first two WTA Tour titles and reaching the semi-finals of the US Open, became another fallen seed when surrendering early ascendancy over Israel's Shahar Peer. Only seven places separate these two players on the world rankings and that showed as they slugged it out for nearly two hours before Peer celebrated her debut at these championships by closing out a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 verdict.

Russia's Vera Zvonareva looked like following those leading figures through the exit door when her compatriot Elena Vesnina held the upper hand in the early stages of their final set on Court Three. Zvonareva, whose consistency over the last two years has earned her appearances at the end-of-season Tour finals in Doha, managed to turn things round, though, and qualified for a second round encounter with Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens by virtue of a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory.