American teen sensation Coco Gauff fought “fire with fire” to come through a tension-fuelled second round against Marketa Vondrousova in Dubai on Tuesday, to join seeds Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka in the last-16 stage.
Contesting a seventh consecutive three-set match, Gauff needed two hours to dismiss the Czech No 12 seed 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 and set up a third-round meeting with qualifier Tereza Martincova.
The contest took on an edge when 16-year-old Gauff complained to the umpire about how Vondrousova was catching her ball toss with her racquet instead of letting it bounce or capturing it with her hand, which she believed to be against the rules.
The incident sparked some tension between the pair as the match unfolded.
At one point Gauff aimed directly at Vondrousova’s body on a drive volley at the net and did not apologise. The Czech also forewent the courtesy apology when she claimed a point via a lucky net cord.
“My personality, I fight fire with fire,” Gauff later said of the incident.
“I lost those two points that game, and she had wild screams, and I like to scream, so I screamed back.”
Gauff, who hit a career-high ranking of 38 last week, is hoping to continue her impressive rise with the goal of being seeded at the next grand slam.
The popular youngster turns 17 on Saturday, the day of the Dubai final and she admitted that getting that far would be the perfect way to celebrate her birthday on her tournament debut.
“That’s definitely a big motivation,” said the Florida-based Gauff.
- ‘Counting the days’ -
Over on centre court, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova let two match points slip her grasp in the second set before she regrouped to oust Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Her reward is a rematch with American Jessica Pegula, who upset Pliskova at the Qatar Open last week.
“In Australia I played back-to-back with Danielle Collins,” said Pliskova, who was a finalist in Dubai in 2015.
“The main thing about playing the same player two weeks in a row is that I think for them it’s just going to be tough to repeat the matches which they did the first week.
“It’s a completely different and new tournament. I was super tired and not really ready last week when we played, so I just hope to play better than I did.”
Meanwhile, 2019 champion Belinda Bencic overcame a stiff challenge from Russian world number 34 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to book a last-16 clash with in-form teenager Anastasia Potapova, who took out American No11 seed Madison Keys.
Bencic reflected fondly on her Dubai title run from two years ago, and said it was particularly special because she shared the podium with her Swiss compatriot Roger Federer, who won the men’s event in the Emirates a week later.
The No6 seed said she was thrilled about Federer’s comeback this week in Doha, following a 13-month absence due to knee surgery.
“It’s exciting for everyone,” said Bencic who turns 24 on Wednesday.
“Everyone is counting the days. I thought he was going to play today and then I saw the schedule and I was like, ‘No, one more day we have to wait’.
“But it’s good because he’s coming back on my birthday, which is really good and I wish him best of luck.”
Later in the day, third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka made quick work of Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-4 and will next face 15th-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit for a place in the quarter-finals.
Results from the WTA Dubai Open on Tuesday (x denotes seeding):
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) bt Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3, 6-1
Anastasia Potapova (RUS) bt Madison Keys (USA x11) 6-4, 6-3
Belinda Bencic (SUI x6) bt Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
Cori Gauff (USA) bt Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x12) 3-6, 6-0, 6-4
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) bt Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2
Tereza Martincova (CZE) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x5) 6-1, 6-4
Anett Kontaveit (EST x15) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-4, 7-5
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x3) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-2, 6-4
Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-2, 6-4
Jessica Pegula (USA) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1, 6-2
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