DUBAI // It was billed as the match of the first round, a battle between a former world No 1 on the mend and an audacious teenager who boasts two wins over Angelique Kerber this year.
Caroline Wozniacki, however, made sure there was no drama. The Dane, the 2011 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships champion, booked her ticket to the second round with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Russian teenage Daria Kasatkina, who had stunned Kerber – the world No 1 at the time – in Sydney first and then knocked out the German from the Qatar Open last week.
Wozniacki was a finalist at that rain-marred tournament in Doha, but showed little fatigue as she cruised through the first set with a double break and then piled on the pressure on Kasatkina as she served to stay in the match at 5-6 in the second set. The Russian crumbled, serving a double fault on match point.
“Well, obviously seeing the draw, it’s like, well, could have had an easier first round,” said Wozniacki, who has made the semis on each of her four visits here since her triumph six years ago. “She’s a good young player. She mixes up the pace a lot and she has great hands.
“So I was really pleased with how I was able to just stay focused out there from the beginning. It’s much different conditions here. The ball is flying. The court is faster than in Doha.
“I didn’t really know how I was going to play to start off with. Generally, I was pleased with my game. Some serves were flying a little bit. I kind of have to adjust that for tomorrow.”
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Monica Puig, the Olympic champion, is also through to the second round, overcoming a sore back to down Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 and book a clash with No 15 seed Caroline Garcia.
“You know, the Olympics happened,” said Puig, who won Puerto Rico’s first gold medal at an Olympic Games in Rio last year, defeating Angelique Kerber in the final. “It was great, but I’m hungry for more success. I think the way to do that is just to take it day by day and see where that takes me.
“It was a great week for me in Rio, and it was really good, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t back it up afterward. So right now, I’m just trying to get back to feeling comfortable, playing at that level consistently. 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.
“The medal is home, in a safe place. It’s always nice to reflect on that and just know that it wasn’t a dream. I like to look at it a lot. It gives me goosebumps. It was such a beautiful moment for me. It’s always nice to go back and remember.”
Kristina Mladenovic, meanwhile, will face off against “good friend” Karolina Pliskova, the Doha champion and No 2 seed, in the second round on Tuesday after cruising past Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 6-3 on Monday.
“She’s definitely up there, on fire, like full confidence, I have to say,” Mladenovic said. “She’s been improving for the last two or three years like all the time and being a seriously tough player now.
“So I’m expecting a very difficult match. She just won in Doha, so she will feel great, obviously. And here, the conditions are also great for her. I will need, I think, to play a bit better than today.”
Alison Riske (United States) beat 11-Coco Vandeweghe 6-4, 6-4
10-Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) beat Daria Kasatkina (Russia) 6-2, 7-5
Christina McHale (United States) beat 13-Kiki Bertens (Netherlands) 6-7, 6-3, 6-4
Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) beat Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Catherine Bellis (United States) beat 17-Yulia Putintseva (Kazakhstan) 6-1, 7-5
Shuai Peng (China) beat Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine) 6-1, 6-1
Elise Mertens (Belgium) beat Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria) 6-3, 6-2
Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukraine) beat Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (France) beat Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic) 6-3, 6-3
Misaki Doi (Japan) beat Madison Brengle (United States) 6-2, 6-7, 6-3
Ana Konjuh (Croatia) beat Shuai Zhang (China) 6-0, 6-1
Lauren Davis (United States) beat Mandy Minella (Luxembourg) 2-6, 6-2, 6-1
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