Defending champion Garbine Muguruza, 2021 finalist Barbora Krejcikova and top seed Aryna Sabalenka were all eliminated from the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

A day of upsets left Ons Jabeur, the eighth seed, as the top remaining player in the draw.

Some big names helped deliver the shocks, though, with world number two Sabalenka usurped by two-time Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets.

Muguruza did not look like being one of the scalps as her title defence continued against Veronika Kudermetova.

But after taking the first set, the reigning WTA Tour Finals champion went down 3-6 6-4 6-4.

French Open champion Krejcikova, beaten by Muguruza in the final last year, also exited the tournament at the hands of Dayana Yastremska 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Iga Swiatek let a set lead slip to Jelena Ostapenko, while two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina collapsed to lucky loser Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7-0) 6-2.

Jabeur, a winner against Jessica Pegula, was the only seed to win in a ruthless round of 16.

However, her reward in a still stacked quarter-final draw is a meeting with Simona Halep, another who has twice won in Dubai.

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka and defending champion Garbine Muguruza came through their first-round matches unscathed at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

Belarusian Sabalenka made light work of 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk, sealing a 6-4 6-1 win in one hour and 15 minutes.

Standing in her way of a third consecutive quarter-final in Dubai is Petra Kvitova, who beat Camila Giorgi on Monday.

Last year's champion and fourth seed Muguruza began her title defence with a 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 6-2 win over Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakova in two hours and 24 minutes.

Spaniard Muguruza will face Veronika Kudermetova in the second round after the Russian beat former world number one Victoria Azarenka in straight sets earlier on Tuesday.

There were also wins for eighth seed Ons Jabeur and 10th seed Elina Svitolina against Vera Zvonareva and Mayar Sherif respectively.

Elsewhere, there was a shock as qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse dumped out third seed Paula Badosa 6-3 5-7 6-4.

Ninth seed Danielle Collins is also out after the American retired due to dizziness in the second set against Marketa Vondrousova.

Sofia Kenin failed to put up a fight as she went down 6-1 6-2 to Jelena Ostapenko.

 

Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Barbora Krejcikova had little difficulty progressing to the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday. 

The unseeded Halep, who was champion in 2020, needed just an hour and 11 minutes to see off Alison Riske 6-2 6-4 as she looks to climb back up the rankings. 

The two-time grand slam winner went into this week ranked 23rd in the world after a difficult 2021 that was ravaged by injury, but she was in fine form against Riske. She showed good spirit to dig herself out of a hole in the second set and save two break points – the American's only ones in the entire match – in the fourth game. 

Swiatek, seeded sixth, was even more comfortable against Daria Kasatkina, defeating the Russian 6-1 6-2 in just 65 minutes. 

Kasatkina had no answer to Swiatek in the first set and, by the time she started to gain some form of momentum, she was already a set and a break down. 

Swiatek had few issues closing out the match and was joined in the second round by Petra Kvitova, who dropped just two games en route to an emphatic 6-2 6-0 defeat of Camila Giorgi. 

Krejcikova was the highest seed in action. The Czech, who lost to Garbine Muguruza in last year's final, was given a tougher examination than some of her rivals, with wildcard Caroline Garcia putting up a solid fight. 

Krejcikova came through 6-4 7-6 (7-0) in the end, blowing the Frenchwoman away in the second-set tie-break, though she will surely have to sharpen up if she is to go one better than 2021 – the 26-year-old hit just 12 winners to 28 unforced errors. 

There was also a victory for Jessica Pegula in an all-American affair with Coco Gauff that included 10 breaks of serve – the former won 6-4 6-4. 

 

Anett Kontaveit clinched the WTA St Petersburg Ladies Trophy title, fighting back to win an enthralling three-set final against world number seven Maria Sakkari on Sunday.

The Estonian, ranked ninth in the world, won her sixth career singles title after recording a tense 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 win over her Greek rival, in a clash between the tournament's top two seeds.

The victory means Kontaveit leads Sakkari for head-to-head victories, winning seven of their 13 meetings to date, and stretched the champion's remarkable run of indoor wins to 20 matches.

She was made to suffer before recording her first title of 2022, winning the eagerly awaited clash after a gruelling three hours of tennis.

Sakkari struck the first blow, winning a tense opening set as she targeted a first WTA 500 title of her career.

Kontaveit responded strongly and forced a decider by winning a tight second via a tie-break.

Greek top seed Sakkari found herself one service game from victory after a strong start to the third set, before Kontaveit's counter-attack arrived.

Kontaveit rallied after going 5-3 down by registering consecutive breaks, before comfortably seeing out her final service game, and has now won five of her last six singles finals.

Maria Sakkari will face Anett Kontaveit in what seems set to be an enthralling top-10 clash in the final of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

Sakkari, the top seed in the tournament, had to go the distance against Irina-Camelia Begu, with the world number seven eventually prevailing 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-4.

That victory took Sakkari three hours and four minutes, as she had to fight back from a break down in the deciding set.

However, she is now into a fourth singles final of her career and has gone one better than her previous best run at St Petersburg, which came in 2020 when she reached the semi-finals.

"It was a very tough match. I think Begu played really, really well," Sakkari said.

"The level of the match was super high. I had to come up with some very tough shots and very physical tennis, but I'm very glad I did it, and I'm super excited to be in the final here."

Second seed Kontaveit awaits in Sunday's final, and the Estonian world number nine should be much fresher after only needing an hour and 11 minutes to see off Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-4.

Kontaveit has remarkably now won 19 matches in a row indoors in the longest such sequence since Justine Henin celebrated 22 consecutive victories between 2007 and 2010.

"It was a very competitive match. I really had to bring very good energy to come through on top today," Kontaveit said.

"She's a very aggressive player, so I had to be really ready for her big shots and just be as consistent and take my chances when I could. I felt like I did that really well today."

Sakkari and Kontaveit have met 12 times previously, with each player winning six times.

Maria Sakkari is handling the pressure of playing as top seed in a WTA Tour-level tournament for the first time, as she put herself to within one win of the final at the St Petersburg Ladies Open.

The Greek world number seven saw off a stern test from Elise Mertens on Friday, winning 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.

Sakkari had to salvage three set points in the opener, but eventually came out on top in the tie-break at the first time of asking.

Even with a comfortable lead in the second set, she failed to take the first three match points on offer, but got the fourth over the line to progress to her first semi-final of the season.

Sakkari, 26, previously reached the St Petersburg semi-final in 2020, where she lost to Elena Rybakina.

"When you're down in the score, you try to play more aggressively and [Elise] was playing really good in the last couple of games," Sakkari explained. 

"She came up with good serves and solid shots from the baseline. I just fought hard."

Next up

Irina-Camelia Begu stands in the way of Sakkari and a place in the final. 

The unseeded Romanian overcame two-time grand slam champion Petra Kvitova in the last 16 and defeated Tereza Martincova 6-4 6-2 in her last-eight tie.

It took just 85 minutes for Begu to secure her place in a fourth semi-final of her career at WTA 500 level or higher, but the first since 2017 in Moscow.

Kontaveit continues remarkable indoor run

World number nine Anett Kontaveit will face Jelena Ostapenko in the other semi-final, after ousting Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.

After her defeat of Bencic, second seed Kontaveit has now won 18 successive matches at indoor tournaments. She is the first player since Justine Henin in 2010 to go on such a streak.

Last year, the Estonian won titles in Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, which form part of this run.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 to take her place in the last four. The 2017 French Open champion has only lost to top-10 players so far in 2022 (Paula Badosa and Barbora Krejcikova).

Petra Kvitova crashed out of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy, but Jelena Ostapenko is safely through to the quarter-finals.

Two-time grand slam champion Kvitova was comfortably beaten in straight sets by Irina-Camelia Begu, with the Romanian winning 6-4 6-0 in just one hour and nine minutes.

The effectiveness of the first serve was the main difference-maker, with Begu winning 73.1 per cent of her first-serve points, while Kvitova – who has 28 singles titles to her name in contrast to her opponents' four – could only manage 50 per cent.

Begu was set to face the winner of Tereza Martincova's tie with Elena Rybakina, but the latter withdrew because of illness.

Seventh seed Ostapenko made light work of Andrea Petkovic as she beat the German 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes, helped largely by winning 85.3 per cent of her first serves, as well as saving all five of the break points she offered up.

Ostapenko has now won two of her four meetings with Petkovic and will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who eased to a 6-2 6-3 victory over Jaqueline Cristian.

Maria Sakkari and Anett Kontaveit were among the big names to cruise through to the quarter-finals of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Wednesday.

Top seed Sakkari faced Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round and recorded a routine 6-2 6-4 triumph as she looks to bounce back from a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open. 

The Greek will next face a difficult contest with Elise Mertens, who needed three sets to see off the challenge presented by Petra Martic and seal a 6-4 3-6 6-2 success. 

Second seed Kontaveit recorded a 6-4 7-5 victory over Romania's Sorana Cirstea to set up a tantalising meeting with Belinda Bencic after the Swiss downed Kaja Juvan 6-1 7-6 (7-2). 

World number 12 Elena Rybakina, meanwhile, needed less than an hour to record a straight-sets victory over Varvara Gracheva, booking an encounter with Tereza Martincova in the round of 16. 

Maria Sakkari, Jelena Ostapenko and Petra Kvitova all avoided upsets as the seeds continued to march on at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Tuesday.

Top seed Sakkari beat Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-4 to advance to the last 16, while seventh seed Ostapenko was a 6-1 6-4 winner against wildcard Wang Xinyu.

Kvitova, the 2018 champion, took just an hour and nine minutes to see off qualifier Jule Niemeier 6-2 6-1, with the sixth seed and two-time former Wimbledon winner making a positive first appearance since being eliminated from the Australian Open in round one.

Sakkari, Ostapenko and Kvitova followed fellow seeds Anett Kontaveit, Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens - winners on Monday - in avoiding an early exit.

However, number four seed and home favourite Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was forced to withdraw from the competition on Tuesday due to a knee problem.

Bernarda Pera replaced the Russian in the main draw and fell 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 to Jaqueline Cristian, who will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

That is after Sasnovich held firm to beat Magda Linette 7-5 4-6 6-4 in a tight contest, with a decisive break in the fifth game of the third set seeing her through.

Peng Shuai's recent interview with French news outlet L'Equipe "does not alleviate any of our concerns", WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon has said.

In November, Peng posted claims on Chinese social media site Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by the former Chinese vice-premier, before disappearing from public view and later denying making the allegations in a video interview posted by a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper.

The situation led to widespread concern for Peng's wellbeing, initiating the #WhereIsPengShuai campaign, while the WTA went as far as suspending Chinese tennis tournaments.

Peng spoke to L'Equipe from Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are being hosted, and insisted there was no reason for concern.

"Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way," Peng said.

"There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don't want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don't want any further media hype around it."

In a statement posted on the WTA's official website, Simon said he was not convinced by Peng's interview and reiterated his call for a formal investigation to be undertaken into her initial claims.

"It's always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games," Simon said in a statement published on the WTA's official website.

"However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2. To reiterate our view, Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader.

"As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation.

"We continue to hold firm on our position and our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai."

Seeds Anett Kontaveit, Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens all came through their first round matches at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Monday.

Eighth seed Mertens came back from a break down in the deciding set to beat Alize Cornet 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Mertens, who had not beaten Cornet since 2018, will face either Petra Martic or Kamilla Rakhimova in the next round as she bids to reach her first quarter-final of 2022.

"It was a very tight match," Mertens said. "It could go either way, it was a battle. It's always difficult against her but I just kept fighting.

"I think I raised my level a little bit in the second and third sets. I stepped more into the court, the service was a bit better and I ran better."

Second seed Kontaveit needed three sets to get past Jil Teichmann, ultimately prevailing 6-3 1-6 6-3, while number five seed Belinda Bencic squeezed past Veronika Kudermetova 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-5).

In Monday's other game, Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Camila Giorgi 6-2 1-6 6-2.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has spoken to an international mainstream outlet for the first time since allegedly going missing after making claims of sexual assault by a senior Chinese politician.

In November, Peng posted claims on Chinese social media Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by former Chinese vice-premier, before disappearing from public view and later denying making the allegations in a video interview posted by a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper.

The situation led to widespread concern for Peng's wellbeing, initiating the #WhereIsPengShuai campaign, while the WTA went as far as suspending Chinese tennis tournaments.

Peng spoke to French outlet L'Equipe from Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are being hosted, alongside the chief of staff of the Chinese Olympic Committee Wang Kan, where she insisted there was no reason for concern.

“I don’t think I was aware of it all [global interest] because I don’t watch the news from foreign media much,” Peng said. “I can’t read in English but I heard about it. I never thought there’d be such worry, though, and I’d like to know why was that the case?”

The former world number 14 again denied making the sexual assault allegation in the first place.

“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” Peng said. “There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it.

“I never disappeared. Everyone could see me. I never disappeared. It’s just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages. But I’ve been always in close contact with my close friends.

“I talked to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA... But at the end of the year, the communication IT system of their website was changed and many players had difficulties logging in. But my colleagues and I always stayed in touch.

"That’s why I don’t know why the news I had disappeared spread."

The Chinese state media released photos, emails and videos of Peng late last year although many suspected they were staged, thus concerns about her wellbeing will remain despite her latest interview.

Peng also spoke about WTA president Steve Simon's decision to suspend Chinese tennis tournaments, revealing she contacted him directly after it was announced as she felt the situation was "a bit exaggerated".

“I didn’t choose anything. Like everyone, like you, I saw the statement on the official WTA website,” Peng said.

“It was very unusual for me, why would I need psychological assistance or that sort of thing? I didn’t know how I should figure it out. But if the WTA psychologists couldn’t reach me and thought that I had disappeared, I think that’s a bit exaggerated. So after reading this statement, I responded to WTA president Steve Simon myself.

“Several copies were sent, and these emails I wrote myself. This is my personal statement. The same evening, I also sent it by WeChat to my colleagues in the players’ department in order to personally confirm that I was the author of the messages sent from my work email.”

Olympics chief Thomas Bach has confirmed he will meet with tennis star Peng Shuai during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There has been global concern expressed for the safety, whereabouts and wellbeing of Chinese player Peng, who has competed at three summer Olympic Games.

In December, Peng denied making an accusation of sexual assault against a Chinese government official, saying there had been "a lot of misunderstandings" about a post on social media in November.

That post on her Weibo account, since removed, contained sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Amid concerns for Peng after the accusation, the head of the women's tennis tour, WTA chairman Steve Simon, said he struggled to believe she had sent him an email that claimed the allegations were false and that she was safely at home.

The WTA has since suspended all its tournaments in China.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Bach said in a news conference on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony that 36-year-old Peng was living in Beijing, and that she claimed to be allowed to move freely. He said the IOC would support Peng if she considered an "inquiry" into her circumstances necessary.

Bach's stance throughout has been that "quiet diplomacy" is required, and he did not deviate from that on Thursday. He explained Peng would enter the "closed loop" of the Games, which has been designed to separate the Olympics from the rest of Beijing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The answer is, yes, we will have the meeting," Bach said, when the issue was raised in a news conference.

"I'm very happy and grateful to Peng Shuai that she will enter, in order to have this meeting, because she also wanted to have this. We discussed it in November."

Bach said the IOC had previously made contact with Peng "to get to know where she is and as far as possible how she is". He has already spoken to Peng via video link.

"What better way than to have a personal meeting," he added. "This is why already in the first meeting, I said I want to meet personally once I arrive in China, and this will happen.

"It is also not only a sign of respect, but a necessity to respect her and then to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life. This is what we are step by step trying to find out.

"If she wants to have an inquiry, of course we would also support her in this, but it must be her decision. It's her life; it's her allegations. We have heard the allegations, and we have heard the withdrawal.

"We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation, and we will know better about her physical integrity and her mental state when we can meet in person. This was the objective of this initiative from the very beginning.

"We say it publicly we have this information, but so far only by video conference. This cannot replace the personal contact and appearance.

"We know from her explanations during these video conferences that she is living here, in Beijing. She's reporting she can move freely, she's spending time with her family and friends, and now we will be able to do the next step in a personal meeting to convince us of her wellbeing and her state of mind."

Danielle Collins was in optimistic mood despite losing to Ash Barty in straight sets in Saturday's Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.

Barty was made to work for it by unlikely finalist Collins and had to come from 5-1 down in the second set to prevail 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Rod Laver Arena.

Collins had raced to within one game of taking the second set, only for Barty to rally back with a quite sensational fightback that ended with tie-break success to secure the trophy.

At a media conference following the final, Collins said she was happy with her efforts against Barty and declared it a "fun battle".

"Not the result that I wanted obviously tonight, but I gave it my best effort," the American told reporters. "I did everything that I could.

"I was pushed to the max, and I gave myself a chance there in the end. Unfortunately, it didn't go my way, but I did everything I could, and that's all you can do at the end of the day.

"It was a great event for me. [I] accomplished some new things, learned a lot of new things. I certainly have some areas to improve, which is a good thing. Yeah, [I] played against a great competitor tonight, and it was a fun battle."

Barty won in front of a passionate home crowd, and Collins explained where in particular she had struggled against her.

"I think she started to push me back in the court a little bit more," Collins added. "I was having some issues really being able to fully rotate on some of my shots to be able to get my shots to where I needed them to be.

"It was really unfortunate, but I did everything I could, tried to push through it. Fell short. She definitely came up with some great shots in some of those big moments, especially with her serving and pushing me back in the court."

The 28-year-old – who hit the same number of unforced errors as Barty (22), but only 17 winners to the Australian's 30 – also had further words of gratitude for her mentor Marty Schneider, whom she also thanked along with her boyfriend in her post-match comments on court.

"We were joking about some tournaments that he had attended with me," she added. "25K in Orlando where I did not have the best performance, and thinking about the way that I'm playing now versus then, it seems like a lifetime ago, but it really wasn't that long ago.

"Other situations that I was in playing some of those smaller tournaments and facing challenges and bumps in the road and how I used to go about things and think about things, how clueless I was sometimes and how much I have learned and grown from those moments.

"Now we can kind of look back and laugh, but during those moments we had some tough conversations. Marty was always on call for all of those.

"I think we've shared some incredible memories over the years, but especially this week to see all of those baby steps come together now and being on the biggest stage in the world, it's just been so special."

Ash Barty said she focused on enjoying herself to avoid getting hampered by the pressure and expectation of delivering an Australian Open title.

The 25-year-old ended Australia's 44-year wait for a singles champion in Melbourne by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

World number one Barty claimed her third grand slam title, landing the trophy without dropping a set.

All the talk at the tournament focused on Barty ending Australia's drought, but the reigning Wimbledon champion said her ability to just enjoy herself was key.

"I think the expectation was that I would always come out and give my best, and that's all I've ever done," she told a news conference.

"I have been close before, but I think now that we've been able to achieve this, I think you guys don't need to talk about it anymore.

"You were the ones who added fuel to the fire, because for us it was just the same processes and the same enjoyment, regardless of where we're playing in the world, what round it is. That has no impact on how much I enjoy my tennis and go out there or how much I try and compete.

"I think it's being able to really simplify that and then just come out and enjoy it. I mean, this fortnight, seven times I got to walk out onto a beautiful court with incredible fans and try and do the best I can do, and that's all I could ask of myself.

"Now to be able to have this part of my dream kind of achieved is amazing, and I think I have to really understand that that came from the processes that we put in with my team and the people that are around me, because without them, I wouldn't be half the person that I am."

Barty came from 5-1 down in the second set to overcome Collins, sealing her victory with a forehand cross-court passing winner.

After a successful fortnight, Barty screamed in delight to celebrate her win.

"It was a little bit surreal. I think I didn't quite know what to do or what to feel, and I think just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me, and I think being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight," she said.

"I think being able to understand how much work my team and I have done behind the scenes and over the last few years, to get to this point to be able to have this opportunity was really special.

"I think it just kind of all came out at once, and yeah, it was a really, really special moment."

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