Mayar Sherif in action.
Gulf Today, Staff Report
Former top-five ranking player Eugenie Bouchard and rising Egyptian star Mayar Sherif began their Australian Open 2021 qualifying campaign on a strong note with a thumping first-round wins at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on Monday.
The No.16 seed routed Japan’s Akiko Omae 6-0 6-1 in just 50 minutes to set up a meeting with American Grace Min.
Min brushed aside Brit Harriet Dart 7-5 6-2, while also winning through to the second round was No.1 seed Kaja Juvan, Croatia’s Jana Fett.
Bouchard, the 25th seed, beat Australian wildcard Abbie Myers 6-2 6-3 and has now won 12 of her past 17 matches since professional tennis resumed in August.
"I think the thing that worked most for me today was to keep my nerves, to hold on my attitude, and from then on my game just flowed,” Sherif said after completely overwhelming Omae with her power, spin and intensity.
"I'm very confident about my game, about myself. And I think I just go to the court, do my best, and that gives me even more confidence.
“I'm very happy to be able to compete, very excited. And very excited for this year, just to hopefully try to get up the ranking, but the most important goal is to improve, and improve my level, get (a) higher level.” With her rise up the rankings and following her Roland Garros result, Sherif’s profile has grown in her home country, with the 24-year-old signing deals with Vodafone, Allianz and Peugeot, among others, late in 2020.
"It's highly important, because it makes me go to the court not thinking about any financial issues,” she explained. “Just to know that these sponsors are behind my back, and always going support me, it gives me a lot of mental comfort.
Bouchard continues fine form Bouchard played with controlled aggression in beating Myers, especially effective in forcing errors with strong returning.
The Canadian will face China’s Yuan Yue in the second round of qualifying as she continues her quest to appear in the AO main draw for a seventh time.
Since August she has shaved almost 200 places off her ranking, and currently stands at No.141.
She attributed her rapid rise to the work she put in during tennis’ five-month suspension, which she spent in her new Las Vegas base under the eye of Gil Reyes, former strength coach to Andre Agassi.
“I just wanted to feel physically so strong that I didn't want the physical aspect to be a hindrance or an excuse ever in any match,” said Bouchard of her October 2019 relocation to Las Vegas, where she also spends time on court with Agassi and Steffi Graf.
“I have confidence, I know I can stay out there for three hours, I can outlast anyone in three sets. So it just kind of removes that from the equation.” Also progressing to the second round of qualifying were third seed Greet Minnen, former top-25 players Lesia Tsurenko and Mihaela Buzarnescu, and 12th seed Catherine McNally.
In the men’s qualifier, Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz continued his impressive rise by winning his first Grand Slam qualifying match.
The 17-year-old recovered to beat Slovak Filip Horansky 5-7 6-1 6-4 to reach the second round of the AO qualifying event, being held in 2021 in Doha, Qatar.
Also progressing on Sunday were German talent Dustin Brown, Swiss No.15 seed Henri Laaksonen, and former world No.12 Viktor Troicki.
However, highly rated Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, the 13th seed, was upstaged by Dutchman Botic Van De Zandschulp 3-6 6-1 6-4.
With her 38th birthday fast approaching, the clock is ticking for Serena Williams and on her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. The American star won her most recent major at the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant.
Novak Djokovic says next week’s Australian Open is wide open and while bookmakers see the seven-times champion as the hot favourite the Serb expects the current crop
The ageless Swiss great, 38, said ahead of the tournament that he had low expectations at the year's opening Grand Slam after missing the warm-up ATP Cup to spend more time with his family.
The Cricket South Africa on Sunday informed that the Proteas team members have tested negative for the novel coronavirus in the first round of testing conducted upon their arrival in Karachi.
Hayward, meanwhile, took the overall honours in the 10km run with a time of 47:28, finishing a minute and 37 seconds ahead of Helen Boland of Ireland (49:05), while Kahli Johnson of the UK was third overall with a time of 49:10.
The UAE-based GPX Racing has become only the second Emirati team to take outright victory at the Hankook 24H DUBAI after a commanding performance at the Dubai Autodrome on Saturday.