ABU DHABI: Second seed Belinda Bencic got her campaign up and running with a victory to progress to the quarterfinals of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, on a day in which China’s rising star Qinwen Zheng stunned fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko.
At the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Bencic was made to work in her first match of the tournament, winning 6-4, 7-5 against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.
Bencic made the perfect start to the match, taking the first set 6-4 and led early in the second set. However Kostyuk rallied to go 5-3 up before Bencic levelled the score at 5-5. The Swiss then broke again to go 6-5 and held her serve to win 7-5.
Speaking after the match, she said: “It was a good first match of the tournament for me and it was tough for me. I’m happy with how the match went and there are some things that I think I can improve on but it’s nice to get into the next round.”
Earlier in the day, 20-year-old Zheng produced a strong display to beat World No. 12 Ostapenko 7-6, 6-1 to book a last-eight clash against either top seed Daria Kasatkina or Jil Teichmann.
Ostapenko raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Zheng showed why she is a bright prospect as she converted a break point and later held her serve to bring to level the scores. Both players continued to play impressive shots, forcing a marathon tie-break in which Zheng finally prevailed 10-8 in a set which lasted 1 hour and 18 minutes. Zheng maintained her form, dominating the second set to seal the victory.
Speaking after her match, Zheng, the world No. 29, said: “I didn’t start the match well as I was 3-0 down but I fought back to earn a tie-break. It was a close set and I was happy that I withheld the pressure to take the opening set.
“I like to play in difficult moments and in tennis you always need to play good in tough moments to become the best player. Today was the longest tie-break game that I have played and I am happy to have won the match.”
In the other singles match, fourth seed and world No. 11 Veronika Kudermetova breezed past Elise Mertens to win 6-1, 7-5. The 25-year-old will now meet Liudmila Samsonova or Barbora Krejcikova for a place in the semifinals.
Fourth seed Kudermetova said: “It was a very good match for me and I started the first set really well and was happy with my all-round performance. She then played a little bit better and although I had chances to win the match at 5-2, I’m overall pleased with how I played over the two sets.”
In the doubles category, Luisa Stefani (Brazil) and Shuai Zhang (China) advanced to the last-eight following a 6-7, 6-3, 10-5 win against Kazakhstan’s Anna Danilina and Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kichenok.
Desirae Krawczyk and Giuliana Olmos ran out 6-1, 6-2 winners against Tereza Mihalikova and Yifan Xu while Nicola Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez were knocked out by Shuko Aoyama and Hao-Ching Chan after losing 7-6, 7-5.
Meanwhile, spectators will have the chance to see world No. 8 and top seed Daria Kasatkina for the first time in the tournament on Thursday where the 25-year-old will take on Teichmann in the last-16.
The match is one of four singles that will take place at Stadium Court which features Krejcikova against Samsonova and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova will come up against third seed Elena Rybakina. The last match of the day will be between sixth seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and Yulia Putinseva.