Dubai: Great Britain’s Heather Watson continued her progress as top-seeded Kristina Mladenovic retired with a back injury on the third day of the 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being held at the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa.
Up against qualifier Elena Gabriela Ruse, the top seeded French girl withdrew with a back injury early in the opening set and the score tied at 2-2 after 25 minutes. The 27-year-old later withdrew from the doubles as well - handing Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov and Kaja Juvan an effortless entry into the semi-finals.
There was, however, no hiccup for the second and third seeds as Polona Hercog and Watson marched into the last eight of the women’s singles with convincing wins. Hercog defeated Spain’s Bolsova Zadoinov 6-2, 7-6 (3) while Watson came in later on the main court to dispatch off her good friend Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2 in just 80 minutes.
“I am very, very happy with myself and the way I am showing improvement on a daily basis. We’ve known each other well and played so often against one and another, so it was always going to be tough dealing with her game,” Watson told Gulf News.
“Coming in today I had to stay aggressive and keep spreading the play around the court and keep her unsettled as much as possible. The plan worked and that gives me a lot of motivationg looking ahead,” she added.
Watson’s ploy worked well and breaks in the third and fifth games saw the Briton lead 5-1 in the first. However, the Belgian broke back in-between, held serves to show signs of a fightback. However, Watson continued with her tactics of pushing her opponent around to serve out the set in 42 minutes.
The second set was less complicated with early breaks in the first and third games which saw the Briton going up 4-0, after which she kept her focus to wrap up set and match in an hour and 20 minutes.
“Her forehand from the middle of the court is among the most lethal. I had to make sure she didn’t get too many opportunities to settle in and dictate play. Added to this, I served much better as well,” Watson admitted.
Also advancing into the last eight stages was seventh-seeded Dutch girl Rus with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-1 win over upcoming Chinese Xiyu Wang in the battle of two left-handers. “It was really tough against a tricky player where most of the points were close and I had to stay sharp all the time,” Rus said.
“She is a great young player and she was at a high intensity all the time. I just couldn’t afford to relax and let the advantage slip by. I am happy with the way I am playing,” she added.
(Round Two of women’s singles at 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge): Danka Kovinic bt Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 7-6 (5), 6-2; Katerina Siniakova bt Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-2; Elena Gabriela Ruse bt Kristina Mladenovic 2-2 (retd.); Polona Hercog bt Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov 6-2, 7-6 (3); Arantxa Rus bt Xiyu Wang 6-1, 6-3; Heather Watson bt Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2; Barbora Krejcikova bt Dalma Galfi 6-2, 6-4; Sorana Cirstea bt Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-0, 6-3.