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Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark returns the ball to Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova during their WTA Dubai Open tennis match in Dubai yesterday.
DUBAI: Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki strolled into the second round of the Dubai tennis championships by beating Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-2 yesterday.
Wozniacki 22, made short work of her Czech opponent, winning in an hour, although she lost her serve at 5-1 in the first set before breaking back immediately.
Safarova double-faulted to gift the world number 10 a 3-1 lead in the second set and she capped a miserable display with a shanked forehand to lose the match.
Wozniacki ended 2010 and 2011 as the top-ranked women’s player, but endured a tough 2012, slipping down the standings as she made little impression at the grand slams.
This year has also proved difficult for the Dane, who has gone beyond the last 16 in only one tournament, and she will now face Chinese qualifier Jie Zheng before a potential showdown with new world number one Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
Williams, who received a bye to the second round, will play France’s Marion Bartoli today and the American’s chances of winning a 48th singles tour title were boosted by the withdrawal of Azarenka.
Earlier, Italy’s Sara Errani defeated Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The diminutive world number seven will play Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in the second round.
Czech Petra Kvitova put an indifferent start to 2013 behind her as she thumped qualifier Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-1.
Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011, but suffered a second-round exit at January’s Australian Open.
“At the beginning of the season I wish (I had) better results,” Kvitova told reporters. “I changed my fitness preparation, so I needed some time to get used to it.”
Meanwhile, Serena sprang to the defence of a fellow former US Open champion whose exclusion from the main draw of the Dubai Open had surprised some people here this week. The world number one called it “weird” that Svetlana Kuznetsova, a winner of two Grand Slam titles, a former Dubai finalist, and someone she considers “a great player”, has not been given a wild card into the main draw US $2,000,000 tournament.
Kuznetsova suffered a knee injury which for two months put her on crutches, and was followed by many weeks of rehab, forcing her to miss every tournament after Wimbledon last year.
The six months’ absence caused the Russian’s ranking to plummet to 85, but she showed she is recovering by producing wins over two top 20 players last month which lifted her back into the top 50.
However the Dubai Open prefers a policy of encouraging youth, giving wild cards to Laura Robson and Yulia Putintseva, two promising teenagers, and to Marion Bartoli, the world number 11 who offered her entry too late for the deadline, but whose presence is considered an asset to the tournament.
“You know I definitely think it’s tough,” said Williams, suggesting that she would not have played in the tournament if she had been placed in Kuznetsova’s situation.
“She’s been such a great player, and she got injured. She’s won a couple of Grand Slams, so how can such a great player not get a wild card? It’s kind of weird.”
Instead Kuznetsova won through three rounds of the qualifying competition before being landed with a first round against Roberta Vinci on an outside court. There she failed to do herself justice in a 6-3, 6-2 defeat.
“I read what Serena said, that she wouldn’t play the tournament,” said Kuznetsova. “I wouldn’t play it, either, you know, because I think I deserve to have a wild card, but in my situation, I just have to go through this patch.