Belinda Bencic’s title defense came to a quick crashing end in Dubai Tuesday as the Swiss fell to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round 1-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Pavyuchenkova lost the first 19 points of the match then improbably won 12 of the last 13 games against the world No. 4.
“I just kept on fighting, still trying to hit every ball, trying to be there,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “Mentally I was quite positive, just playing point by point even though it was 5-0, I thought, Oh my God, it’s embarrassing, so bad. I think it helped me going into the second set because I took that mentality, that mindset of being positive and fighting, trying to do my thing. I was like, You know what, doesn’t matter what the score is, just play. Slowly just started to turn around, I started to find my game.”
On a day of upsets, No. 3 seed and 2-time champion Elina Svitolina got swamped by Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-1.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin also exited falling to rising 20-year-old Russian Elena Rybakina who dismissed the No. 5 seed 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-3.
“I’ve worked a lot, and it’s amazing that I managed to win today. I just finished a tournament, and I only came here one day before, so I’m happy,” said Rybakina who is now 7-0 this year in deciding sets. “I’m so happy with my win today. I think today I followed my tactics, and that was the key to win.”
Kenin was making her tournament debut as a Grand Slam champion.
“I just didn’t feel my game really well,” Kenin siad. “Of course, she played well. I just made too many unforced errors. I just didn’t take my chances. I felt really off the whole match. I tried to somehow get back in there, hang in there, but it just didn’t work out today.
“I really thought I could have somehow turned it around. I felt like I had the match play, I had the confidence. It just didn’t work out today. It’s obviously really upsetting and disappointing at the moment.”
Petra Martic, Aryna Sabalenka and Anett Kontaveit.
On Wednesday, world No. 2 and 2015 winner Simona Halep is in action against Ons Jabuer. Following her win over Kim Clijsters, Garbine Muguruza returns to meet qualifier Veronika Kudermetova.
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