Tunisian Jabeur nullifies Riske with Dubai opening win
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia returns the ball to Alison Riske of the US during the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. AFP
Ons Jabeur beat Alison Riske 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 6-3 on Monday at the Dubai Championships to earn a second-round date with top seed Simona Halep.
The Tunisian who trains in Dubai was encouraged by football-level support from flag-waving Tunisian fans.
"I'm so grateful for the crowd, they really gave me energy. It feels like home here," said Jabeur. "Alison is tough, she made me run everywhere, I was down in the second set but got it back in the third," added the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final last month at the Australian Open.
Jabeur lost the first eight points and missed a pair of set points in the 10th game before it went into a tie-breaker. She led 5-0 in the decider and took the set on her fourth opportunity. But the momentum shifted in the second set, with Riske taking a 5-0 lead before a Jabeur took a medical time out for blisters.
Barbora Strycova turned a corner after a poor start this season as she defeated US teenager Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-4, winning only her second match of 2020.
The 18-year-old Anisimova managed 43 winners but was weighed down by 67 unforced errors in a struggle lasting just over two-and-a-half hours.
"It wasn't really a great match from both sides, the balls were flying everywhere, it was a struggle to keep them on the court," the 33-year-old Dubai-based Strycova said. "But I got through the match and I'm happy to be in the second round," the 2016 finalist said of a contest played in the heat of a desert day.
"I like to compete and have the feeling of winning matches," added the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Strycova ended with 23 winners and 43 unforced errors and swept five of the last six games to advance. Belgian four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters was making a return to tennis later Monday after playing her last WTA match in 2012, with the 36-year-old taking on fellow former major champion Garbine Muguruza.