Defending champion Venus Williams was beaten 6-4 6-2 by Lucie Safarova in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday 18 February. It was her first defeat here since 2005 and ended her winning streak in Dubai at 16 matches, still a record for any player in the WTA event.
On a day of great drama, second seed and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, fourth seed Ana Ivanovic, number five seed Agnieszka Radwanska and seventh seed Angelique Kerber also failed to reach the quarter-finals.
There were victories though, for top seed Simona Halep who defeated Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3, and third seed Caroline Wozniacki overcame 2014 finalist Alize Cornet 6-4 6-0. Australian and US Open Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova also advanced, beating Zarina Diyas 6-3 6-4.
“I think she played brilliantly,” said Venus of Safarova. “There were a couple of games there that I didn't even get my racquet on the ball. What can I say to that? I don't think I played badly, but I couldn't afford to make any errors today. The errors that I made were really costly, so, you know, credit to her. I wish her the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”
Radwanska was upset 6-4 6-2 by fast-rising Spanish star Garbine Muguruza after arriving in Dubai struggling with her health, following a spell playing Fed Cup in the chill of her Polish homeland. Playing for the second straight day in the midday sun left her unable to fully rise to the occasion.
“I think when you're not playing your best tennis then it's hard to compete with those kind of players,” said Radwanska. “I think I didn't serve enough, you know, to win that. I think that was really important part in that match.”
Muguruza believes there is always a chance to upset the top players if you work hard and keep your concentration. “I think that nowadays there are so many girls that play so well that the difference between the top players and the other ones are really small,” she said. “So I think that you have a chance if you work and play and concentrate and do your game, I think you can beat them.” Kvitova was defeated 6-3 4-6 6-3 by Carla Suarez Navarro, and agreed that there is little to separate the players.
“Yeah, everybody can beat everyone in the top,” she said. “And, yeah, maybe it's nice for the fans that they can see something new and some surprises, but not every time- it's nice for us.”
“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is always full of surprises, and no player is guaranteed success, even a champion as accomplished as Venus Williams,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “Congratulations to Lucie Safarova for an excellent performance, and we look forward to welcoming Venus Williams back again next year.
“We also congratulate Carla Suarez Navarro for her victory over our 2013 champion, Petra Kvitova, and Garbine Muguruza on reaching the quarter-finals. She was the only player last year to defeat both the number one and number two players in the world, and she recently defeated our top seed, Simona Halep, in the Fed Cup. It will be very interesting to see how far she can progress this week.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event continues until 21st February. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament which stars world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.