Two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza exacted a little revenge on teenager Dayana Yastremska on Sunday to move into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The Spaniard, twice a semi-finalist at the tournament, was typically made to work hard against her opponent, rebounding from a set down and then requiring seven match points to eventually triumph 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
It was the third time the two have met in the past four months, with rising star Yastremska winning both previous encounters. In fact, until Dubai the 18-year-old had not dropped a set against Muguruza.
However, it proved third time lucky for world No 15, who saw off her recent rival - the youngest player in the world's top 50 at No 34 - under the lights on Centre Court in two hours and six minutes.
Asked what made the difference this match, Muguruza said: “She was playing very well the previous two times. She was playing better today as well, but I managed to increase my level and win.”
Muguruza, the French Open champion in 2016 and winner at Wimbledon the following year, squandered a match point on Yastremska’s serve at 5-2 in the deciding set, before spurning another five in the final game.
Muguruza got the job done, finally, to set up a second-round tie with China’s Saisai Zheng, who defeated Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic on Sunday afternoon, coming through the contest 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Muguruza and Zheng have met once before, with the former emerging victorious at last month’s Australian Open. Muguruza went on to lose in the last 16 in Melbourne to Karolina Pliskova.
“I played her recently as well,” Muguruza said of Zheng. “But, come on, every match here is very difficult - it’s such an important tournament. So I’m ready to fight.”
Muguruza reached her second career Dubai semi-final last year and, having gone deep before, will no doubt be determined to at least emulate that. However, given the tournament this year features nine of the world's top 10, she is wary of losing focus.
“I certainly been kind of close, but that’s very far away,” Muguruza said. “Come on, it’s only the first round, I don’t want to think of that yet.”
Earlier on Centre Court, last year’s runner-up Daria Kasatkina displayed laudable grit to clamber back from a break down in the decider to defeat qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Extending to two hours and 15 minutes, it was the popular Russian’s first tour victory of the season. Last year, she lost in the final to defending champion Elina Svitolina.
“It was very tough match, long rallies,” said the world No 14, who before the match was 0-4 in tour matches for 2019. “We played more than two hours, and I’m really tired, but I’m really happy I won this match.
“Let’s say I’m not playing my best tennis at the moment. But I hope this match will give me confidence and I will correct this crisis.”