Dubai Tennis Championships: Ons Jabeur aims to convert fast start into deep run

The Tunisian raced into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Katerina Siniakova

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Ons Jabeur made straightforward progress to the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday – and now the Tunisian star is aiming to convert her latest encouraging start into a deep run.

Jabeur, 26, faced few problems during a 6-2, 6-3 win over the Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova that lasted just 65 minutes.

It is not the first time this season the world No 31 has started a tournament brightly, although encounters with some sizeable obstacles have previously prevented her from advancing too much further.

At the season-opening Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open, Jabeur ran into eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka; likewise when she faced Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open.

Then at the Qatar Open last week, she narrowly went down to tournament second seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round.

It's fair to say Jabeur has not exactly had the rub of the green so far this year.

"If you look at the results without seeing any of the matches, you might think it’s bad, but I’ve been playing good lately," she said after her win over Siniakova.

"I played Sabalenka who won the tournament and Osaka who won the tournament, so it’s tough to be too hard on myself. But I always want to play better.

"You could see I was getting quite angry with myself on court today because I see myself playing well and producing good results, but in the end its second and third rounds and I see myself in finals and winning titles.

"I want to use that anger to play well and to show the player I am and hopefully the season can be better now."

To break free of her perpetual second- and third-round showings, Jabeur might well need a combination of luck and skill this week in Dubai. Her potential second round opponent is 14th seed Elena Rybakina – last year's finalist and one of the brightest young stars on the WTA Tour – unless Chinese world No 48 Saisai Zheng can spring a surprise.

Get beyond that and fourth seed Petra Kvitova could lie in wait in the third round. Navigating such a potential minefield demonstrates just how competitive the Dubai lineup is and how challenging it can be to reach the latter stages of tournaments on the WTA Tour, even for a player as talented as Jabeur.

However, while she expresses her burning desire to reach finals and titles, Jabeur is adopting a more philosophical approach to achieving those goals, especially during this period on the calendar where, as the leading light of Arab tennis, the Tunisian shoulders the hopes and expectations of the region.

"I felt it more last week in Doha [where fans were in attendance] but no one is putting any extra pressure on me, it’s more me putting pressure on myself because I want to win so bad," Jabeur said.

"But I’ve learned from the past week that I’m trying to take it easy. Whatever happens, happens. Sometimes it can be tough going from one tournament to another. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and it’s going well right now."

As Jabeur strives to reach her first Dubai final, two players who know exactly what it takes to make the title match met over on Court 1 in a first round clash.

France's Alize Cornet, who lost to Venus Williams in the 2014 final, faced 2018 finalist Daria Kasatkina of Russia, with Cornet emerging victorious 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. She will take on 13th seed Sabalenka in the second round.

Meanwhile, few players have more experience of Dubai finals than Svetlana Kuznetsova and the 35-year-old Russian opened her 2021 campaign with a hard-fought 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory over China's Qiang Wang.

Victory for Kuznetsova – a finalist in 2004, 2008, and 2011 – set up a showdown with top seed and two-time champion Elina Svitolina.

Elsewhere on the opening day in Dubai, Abu Dhabi finalist Veronika Kudermetova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6, 6-2 in an all-Russian match, and Anastasija Sevastova eased past Bernarda Pera 6-0, 6-3.

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