DUBAI // Defending champion Venus Williams is through to the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, brushing aside Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic 6-1, 6-2 in 69 minutes.
Williams, who received a first round bye as the No 8 seed, cruised through the first set, breaking the 17-year-old twice.
The American, who did not face a single break point in the first set, dropped her serve early in the second to give Bencic a 2-0 lead. However, the Swiss, winner of the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year award last season, failed to hold on to her lead and the 34-year-old won the next six games on the trot to stretch her winning streak in Dubai to 16.
That was the only success the United States was able to point to as the other American women endured an afternoon to forget.
Coco Vandeweghe was forced to retire and last year’s doubles finalists Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears crashed out in the first round. Vandeweghe was down 3-1 in the first set of her first-round match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina when the world No 32 withdrew, citing pain in her right shoulder.
The defeat comes a week after she suffered a straight-sets defeat in the Fed Cup against Argentina.
Kops-Jones and Spears reached the final of the Dubai event last year before falling to Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova.
However, this year they failed to get into a rhythm and were dispatched by German duo Julia Goerges and Anna-Lee Groenefeld 7-6, 6-2.
Earlier in the day, Garbine Muguruza defeated Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on centre court to book her place in the second round, where she will meet Jelena Jankovic, the 2005 Dubai finalist and world No 16.
Muguruza, the Spanish-Venezuelan, is ranked 24th in the world, and she is being tipped to climb far higher in the near future.
She beat world No 1 Serena Williams at the French Open last year and followed that up with a Fed Cup defeat of Simona Halep, the world No 3 and this week’s top seed.
Peng Shuai also dispatched Elena Vesnina in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 and will next face Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Prinonkova.
The success for the Chinese player, who is the world No 22, came following a mixed start to the year.
She lost in the last 16 at the Australian Open last month to world No 2 Maria Sharapova before going out in the second round last week as top seed in the Pattaya City event in Thailand to Japan’s Misaki Doi, the world No 104.
“I think it was fine [her form], because after the Australian Open and then because my back, I could not, like, right away, you know, practice, and I rest for about seven days and start slowly from the Fed Cup, and we get in Pattaya,” Peng, 28, said yesterday.
“Then, it’s like tough match there, and it is a lefty [Doi], you know, a little bit windy.
“I think the first set, and also the third se,t I had like some good points.”
China’s Wang Qiang beat Kurumi Nara of Japan 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 to set up a second-round tie with Flavia Pennetta. Unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi defeated former world No 2 Vera Zvonareva, who has returned to the sport after a long spell out with injury, 6-4, 6-2 in an one-sided encounter.
Karolina Pliskova, the Czech 17th seed, made comfortable progress through to the next round with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
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