Elina Svitolina claims back-to-back Dubai titles
Elina Svitolina claims back-to-back Dubai titles
The fourth-ranked Ukrainian becomes only the third woman to defend the title, after Justine Henin (2003-2004) and Venus Williams (2009-2010).
Svitolina beat the 24th-ranked Kasatkina for the third time in as many meetings after the Russian had saved five match points during the week in two matches.
“It’s amazing to win here again,” 23-year-old Svitolina said. “Even being the defending champion is amazing.
“I was just trying to hit the ball onto the court and make her run today. At the end I’m very happy with how I played, with this whole week, actually.”
Kasatkina brought in the accumulated wear and tear of just over nine hours on court during the week, with the Russian blinking first in the final as she dropped serve to trail 3-2 on a wide return in the opener.
Kastakina saved three set points to hold at 4-5 before the champion served out the opener after 44 minutes on her fourth opportunity.
The top seed immediately consolidated her advantage, breaking to start the second set and quickly racing away to a 3-0 lead as the reserves of Kasatkina began to drain further.
Svitolina made it 4-0 with ease and cantered to victory in just 70 minutes to earn the 11th title of her career.
World Cup live: Portugal 1 Morocco 0
- Cristiano Ronaldo heads in an early goal
4.44pm: The battle between Noureddine Amrabat and Portugal's Raphael Guerreiro has been one of the features of the match. Amrabat has got the better of his man, but Portugal still lead.
4.30pm: Herve Renard has made the change and brought on Ayoub El-Kaabi. He got nine goals at the African Nations Championship in February. How Morocco could do with one from him here.
Guerreiro's going to have nightmares about Amrabat. Morocco man got the beating of him every single time.— Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1) June 20, 2018
4.20pm: Morocco have edged ahead on the possesion stakes, 51 to 49, but they need to start to make that count otherwise they are heading out of the tournament.
4.16pm: SAVE! What a save that was from Patricio to prevent Younes Belhanda from finding the bottom corner with a header. that's as close as Morocco have come.
4.11pm: How long before Herve Renard sends for striker Ayoub El-Kaabi from the bench? He has 11 goals for his country and is the top-scorer in the squad. Morocco need one badly here.
4.07pm: Ronaldo may have scored the only goal but he had the third fewest touches in the first half. Only Mehdi Benatia (21) and Goncalo Guedes (19) had fewer.
4.05pm: We're back underway at the Luzhniki Stadium and Morocco need to score and avoid defeat otherwise they are out of the World Cup.
4.02pm: Random fact but Ronaldo has five hotels in Marrakech. He was certainly made to feel welcome by the Moroccons from that fifth-minute corner.
3.50pm: 37 percent of goals at this World Cup have been scored from set-pieces.
3.46pm: "I think Morocco have dominated the ball," says BBC Sport's Kevin Kilbane. "Portugal have been dreadful."
3.45pm: It's half-time in Moscow and Portugal lead thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's fourth-minute header.
3.42pm: Morocco's Mehdi Benatia is the first player to be booked. He is shown a yellow card for clattering into Cristiano Ronaldo.
3.37pm: Morocco are having a good go here. They've had 49 percent of the possesion and registered six shots to Portugal's four.
Morocco fans at Luzhniki respond to Ronaldo’s complaints by singing ‘Messi, Messi’. An old one but a good one— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) June 20, 2018
3.30pm: "There are worse teams than Morocco at the World Cup," said BBC Sport's Terry Butcher. "They may be 1-0 down and heading out of the World Cup, but there is plenty of confidence out there."
3.25pm: "Morocco should be pleased with how they have responded," said BBC Sport's Martin Keown. "They have not done an awful loy wrong apart from conceding that goal,"
3.21pm: Marking Ronaldo is a two-man job. Here Achraf Hakimi and Manuel Da Costa keep tabs on the Real Madrid superstar.
3.19pm: Goals are a big problem for Morocco. The only player who has more than ten international goals to his name is Ayoub El-Kaabi and he's on the bench.
3.15pm: "Morocco have got good variation from their corners," says BBC Sport's Martin Keown.
3.12pm: Not content with scoring 44 goals in 44 games for Real Madrid this season, Ronaldo now has four in two World Cup games. He is a machine.
3.08pm: "That is appalling marking by Morocco," said BBC Sport's Martin Keown. "You just can't give Ronaldo that amount of room."
3.06pm: GOAL. And it's Cristiano Ronaldo, who else? He steals a march from a corner and powers in a header. Worst possible start for Morocco.
3.04pm: A real positive start from Morocco. "What a start that was with 12-13 passes from Morocco," said BBC Sport pundit Terry Butcher. "Wonderful play. It all started with a ball up to Cristiano Ronaldo, who just shrugged his shoulders."
2.59pm: The size of the task facing Morocco this afternoon is demonstrated by the fact that Ronaldo has scored 33 goals in his last 23 games for club and country and has only failed to score in five of those games.
2.52pm: "The Moroccan fans are taking their seats and are already making a significant amount of noise," reports BBC Sport's Gary Flintoff. "They are dotted throughout the stadium, but there are thousands of them grouped together behind one of the goals."
2.45pm. "Ziyech is their playmaker and he's been instrumental at Ajax," said BBC Sport's Jermaine Jenas. "Technically, he's the one they need to be going through. He's got an eye for a pass and can glide past people. There are a lot of clubs looking at him. Morocco desperately need him today if they are to get anything out of the game."
2.42pm: Mexico '86 seems a long time but that is when these two last met at the World Cup. The Atlas Lions won that one 3-1.
2.41pm: Cristiano Ronaldo needs just one goal to move outright second in the list of all-time international scorers.
2.39pm: Morocco's Mbark Boussoufa in the zone before the match at the Luzniki Stadium.
2.38pm: "It will be a different gamplan from Morocco," said BBC Sport's Kevin Kilbane. "They are going to have to play on the back foot."
2.35pm: "This Morocco side will feel they need to come out and produce a performance after their opening defeat," said BBC Sport's Jermaine Jenas.
2.32pm: Morocco are chasing their first World Cup win since they beat Scotland 3-0 in France. Salaheddine Bassir (2) and Abdeljalil Hadda got the goals that day.
2.29pm: Cristiano Ronaldo is again partnered in attack by Goncalo Guedes, despite the Valencia forward's unimpressive form in a 3-3 draw with Spain. Joao Mario starts in midfield replacing Bruno Fernandes.
2.28pm: Morocco coach Herve Renard has made three changes, with forward Khalid Boutaib replacing Ayoub El Kaabi, Manuel Da Costa coming in for Romain Saiss in central defense, and defender Nabil Dirar replacing winger Amine Harit.
2.14pm: Morocco need to bounce back from their agonising defeat against Iran but Portugal, and Ronaldo in particular, pose Herve Renard's men a monumental challenge at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
"We lost a battle but we haven't lost the war. We're not dead," said midfielder Faycal Fajr, one of 17 foreign-born players in Morocco's squad.
2.10pm: The surprise team news is that Nordin Amrabat has been passed fit for Morocco. He came off following a head injury against Iran and the feeling was he would not pass the concussion protocol.
It has not been the best World Cup so far for the Arab nations. Saudi Arabia were thrashed by Russia, Egypt lost late on to Uruguay, Morocco were floored by a sucker punch from Iran and then Egypt were beaten again, this time by Russia. But now Morocco have the chance to make up for that by pulling off the shock of all shocks against European champions Portugal. A win would go down as one of the biggest in their history and resuscitate their hopes of getting out of Group B. And you can follow our live coverage of the game at the Luzhniki Stadium right here, so stay tuned for our insight and opinion on events in Moscow.