Mladenovic leads march of top eight seeds at Habtoor Challenge


Dubai: Top seed Kristina Mladenovic led the march of top eight seeds into the second round of the 21st Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) being held at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa on Tuesday.

Mladenovic took just over one hour to ease her way past 2016 runner-up Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting with her best friend Michaella Krajicek in Round Two on Wednesday. Second seed Viktoria Kuzmova had a different outing as the Slovakian was made to dig in deep for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Third-seeded Tatjana Maria was next through to round two with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Slovenian girl Kaja Juvan, while fourth seed Evgeniya Rodina was stretched before she went through 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-2 against French girl Amandine Hesse to set up a next round meeting with Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria.

Fifth seed Mona Barthel of Germany also eased into the next round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Russian wild card Alexandra Panova, while sixth seed Stefanie Voegele advanced to a meeting with India’s top-ranked Ankita Raina following a 7-5, 6-4 win over Valentina Ivakhnenko of Russia. Sorana Cirstea of Romania, the seventh seed also made it through with a 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Yuliya Hatouka, while eighth seed Slovenian Tamara Zidansek will have to meet wild card entrant Dalma Galfi from Hungary in round two today.

“The scoreline says nothing about how tough this match really was. She [Vikhlyantseva] is a promising youngster and the previous two occasions between us have gone into three sets. So I am just happy to finish this one off in straights sets,” top seed Mladenovic told Gulf News.

“I have been practising very hard in Dubai and I am glad that I have got this opportunity to play in a competition as part of my preparations for the Australian Open,” the 25-year-old added.

Asked about her next clash with Krajicek, one of her best friends, Mladenovic said: “She [Krajicek] has been one of the best players on tour and it would be lovely to be playing against one of my best friends on the tour.”

“On the court, it will be business as usual and I will do everything possible to ensure I go deep into this week. This is all part of my preparations for Melbourne [Australian Open],” she added.

Sixth seed Voegele, one of the few who have been playing in Dubai on a regular basis, was thrilled she was able to handle the changing conditions in her 7-5, 6-4 win over Ivakhnenko. “For sure, the confidence will be high now especially because I was able to tackle the conditions and a tricky opponent,” Voegele said.

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