Sky high Swiss: Belinda Bencic plans parachute jump to celebrate Dubai title

Tennis - WTA Premier 5 - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - February 23, 2019 Switzerland's Belinda Bencic celebrates winning the final against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova REUTERS/Christopher Pike
Updated 23 February 2019
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Sky high Swiss: Belinda Bencic plans parachute jump to celebrate Dubai title

DUBAI: Belinda Bencic defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 on Saturday to win the Dubai Championships and vowed to celebrate with her first parachute jump.
“We agreed that the next title I won, we would go skydiving,” the Swiss said after ending a four-year trophy drought, explaining that the dare-devil plan may not please her father and coach, Ivan.
“It may be funny, because my dad is afraid of heights. He says, ‘why risk your life’.”
The 21-year-old Bencic last won a title in Toronto 2015 before the former world number seven’s career was blighted by a series of back and wrist injuries.
Saturday’s title — the third of her career — will see her jump to 23 in the new world rankings from her current spot of 45th.
Bencic handed second seed Kvitova a setback in the Czech’s quest to eventually claim the world number one ranking — had the two-time Australian Open champion won the Dubai title, she would have risen to second in the world behind Naomi Osaka.
Victory over Kvitova was Bencic’s fourth straight comeback this week at the Aviation Club.
“This is amazing, I can’t believe it,” the champion said. “It’s an honor to be on the court with Petra.”
“It’s incredible. After two rounds we were already saying ‘wow, this is a great tournament. Now it’s only a bonus.
“So many times I was close to defeat. It’s unbelievable that I ended up winning this. I was not coming into this tournament thinking about winning at all. It was really seeing who I play first round.”
Against Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, Bencic had to save six match points before going on to beat world number two Simona Halep and two-time defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina.
Bencic swept the opening set on Saturday but was pegged back in the second as her two-time Wimbledon champion opponent returned the favor.
The third — like the last three Bencic matches in Dubai — made the difference.
Bencic broke in the third and seventh games. One game later, she netted a backhand on a first match point but profitted on a second as Kvitova returned long over the baseline.
“There was not much I could do, Petra plays so fast, so I had to do the same,” Bencic said.
“I just kept trying to return balls and put the pressure on her. With Petra, she’s hitting full power, so it was incredibly tough first set,
“In the second set, I missed by little in the start of the games, then she gained a lot of confidence. She was playing great. She was serving great.”
Bencic won her 13th match of the season against two defeats while Kvitova was thwarted in a second final after winning Sydney but losing the Australian Open title match to Osaka.
“She played great, it was a tough one today for sure,” Kvitova said. “It was a very exhausting week.”


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 25 March 2019
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Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”