Middle East Swing: Murray, Svitolina, Pliskova shine

Reem Abulleil wraps up the three-week stretch of tennis in the Middle East that saw Andy Murray and Elina Svitolina win in Dubai and Karolina Pliskova triumph in Doha.

Reem Abulleil
by Reem Abulleil
5th March 2017

article:5th March 2017

Murray is the first Brit to win the Dubai crown.
Murray is the first Brit to win the Dubai crown.

After a near month-long stretch of tennis across the Gulf, Sport360’s Reem Abulleil looks back at the major talking points.

From the best men and women to have shined in both Doha and Dubai to our favourite quotes and shots of the tournaments, we reflect on a busy start to the 2017 tennis season.


CHAMPIONS

DOHA – KAROLINA PLISKOVA

The Czech won four matches in three days in rainy Doha to become the first player to win two WTA titles this season. Ran out of steam in the Dubai but showed she’ll be a force to be reckoned with this season and is already up at No3 in the Road to Singapore leaderboard (RTS).

DUBAI WTA – ELINA SVITOLINA

The Ukrainian finally stepped up from the International-level tournaments to capture her first Premier 5 title by defeating the likes of Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki en route. Is into the top-10 for the first time in her career and is at No2 in the RTS standings.

DUBAI ATP – ANDY MURRAY

The world No1 extended his lead at the top of the rankings by capturing his first Dubai crown, his first title of the season and 45th career trophy. Survived seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarters and was untroubled from then on.

BEST POINTS

Kerber’s right-handed volley in Dubai quarters

We’re still trying to process the speed at which Kerber sprinted up front after Ana Konjuh’s shot clipped the net, hit a backhand drop shot, then swiftly switched the racquet from her left hand to her right to hit a volley before Konjuh’s lob sailed long. An unforgettable moment from the German lefty during her quarter-final with the Croatian teenager in Dubai.


Murray’s backspin magic

While many would choose his drop shot to save a match point against Kohlschreiber in the Dubai quarters as his best shot of the tournament, I’m personally still amazed by his half volley against Lucas Pouille in the semis at 6-5 in the first set. There was so much backspin on that shot that the only way Pouille could have responded was if he were on the other side of the net.

BEST QUOTES

It was actually my wife’s mum, we were having dinner, and I was, like, This is really irritating. She was, like, Pull your pants down. Show me, it might be shingles. I was, like, Okay. Then the next day got a doctor, and she was right.

– Andy Murray tells us how his mother-in-law diagnosed his shingles.

I’m giving my 100 per cent in tennis, and I’m just focused on this right now. This is consuming my whole life. I just really want this really bad. So I’m going to do whatever it takes.

– Monica Puig is not short on hunger or motivation.

I understand I have a role to play in the whole tennis world. But at the end of the day tennis is bigger than any tennis player.

– Roger Federer talks to Sport360 about his role in the sport.

BMW X6 for gold. X5 for silver. X4 for bronze.

– Ekaterina Makarova tells us Russia’s system for rewarding its Olympic medallists.

On court it’s easy, she’s lefty and I’m right-handed, but still people can’t tell us apart on court. I don’t know what more we can do to help you.

– Karolina Pliskova is surprised how people still can’t tell her apart from her twin sister Kristyna.

BIGGEST UPSETS

Evgeny Donskoy over Roger Federer

Federer lost to a player ranked outside the top-100 on hard courts for the first time since 2000 when he crashed out to Russian world No116 Donskoy in the Dubai second round. The Swiss squandered three match points in the second set and blew a 5-2 lead in the decider and a 5-1 lead in the third-set tiebreak.

Cici Bellis over Agnieszka Radwanska

The 17-year-old 70th-ranked American claimed her first top-10 win with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 triumph over the sixth-ranked Radwanska.

ARAB HIGHLIGHTS

Jabeur lights up Dubai

Tunisian Ons Jabeur qualified into the Dubai main draw for the first time then upset world No22 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round. Her reward is a leap into the world’s top-140 after entering the tournament ranked 171.

Safwat holds his own

Egyptian wildcard Mohamed Safwat gave a respectable performance against Gael Monfils in the first round in Dubai, saving 15 out of 17 break points en route to 6-4, 6-3 defeat to the Frenchman.

BIGGEST FLOP

Stan Wawrinka

The Swiss became the first defending champion to crash out of the Dubai first round since 2008 when he fell in straight sets to Bosnian world No77 Damir Dzumhur.

DESERT HERO

Caroline Wozniacki

The former world No1 reached two finals in two weeks in Doha and Dubai, winning nine of 11 matches, that included wins over tough players like Radwanska, Olympic champion Monica Puig, and Russian teen Daria Kasatkina. She’s up to No14 in the rankings and looks on track to regain her status amongst the game’s elite.


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