Top seed Elina Svitolina became just the third woman to defend the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title thanks to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.
The fourth-ranked Svitolina needed just one hour and 10 minutes to end Kasatkina’s inspired run that saw the 20-year-old save five match points en route to the final, taking out No. 7 seed Johanna Konta and No. 2 seed Garbine Muguruza.
But the 23-year-old Svitolina proved too solid for Kasatkina as the Ukrainian improved her stunning record in finals to 11-2 and joined Venus Williams and Justine Henin as the only women to win back-to-back titles in Dubai.
“It’s amazing, coming back and playing as a defending champion was amazing. I want to say congrats to Daria for her performance here, it was unbelievable. Definitely we’re going to see more and more of her, winning here,” said Svitolina after her win.
“I was just trying to hit the ball into the court, just trying to make a rally, in the end I was very happy the way I handled the pressure throughout the week.”
Kasatkina had the first break opportunity of the match, in Svitolina’s first service game, but the Ukrainian saved it and went on to break for a 4-2 lead.
Just as she had been doing all week, Kasatkina saved three set points in game nine, forcing Svitolina to serve for the set. And it wasn’t long before the Ukrainian sealed her one-set advantage, thanks to a wide backhand from Kasatkina.
Between sets, Kasatkina’s coach Philippe Dehaes paid a visit to his player giving her one special pep talk.
“I’m running like an idiot. I cannot hit the ball. My legs are like bubbles,” complained Kasatkina, who was feeling the effects of the 9+ hours she spent on court en route to the final.
The Belgian coach called upon Kasatkina to “be brave”, which is what she needed to be when she ousted Konta and Muguruza from match points down.
“You’re facing the best defender in the world. This girl is running everywhere and bringing all the balls back, and sometimes she’s making the decision,” said Dehaes.
“You are a brave girl, but you have to be brave in the decisions you take. Remember the basket we did, the sound, and I told you ‘Dasha hit, for the guy who is in the top of the stadium’, you see this forehand, that’s what we’re waiting for.
“You will have to go for it.
“Normally you stay five hours on court so for the moment this is correct,” he joked.
The chat didn’t do the trick as Svitolina quickly went up a double-break 3-0 in the second set.
A backhand winner saw Svitolina make it 5-0 and it was all over in 70 minutes.
Kasatkina ended up committing 34 unforced errors compared to just 11 winners.
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