Shnaider makes a winning start, Sramkova stuns Snigur at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge - GulfToday

Shnaider makes a winning start, Sramkova stuns Snigur at Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge


Rebecca Sramkova in action during her match against Daria Snigur on the opening day of the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Monday.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Top seed Diana Shnaider eased her way into the next round even as defending champion Daria Snigur was sent packing off by Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova on the opening day of the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, on Monday.

Shnaider was effortless in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Natalia Szabanin, while Snigur struggled against her nerves and a steadily improving opponent before losing 6-4, 6-2 in 80 minutes.

Playing as the top seed for the very first time in her career, Shnaider was thrilled with the way she had responded against a tough opponent.

“I think it was my serve that eventually made the difference. I just kept telling myself that I needed to get the serve right, and that went on to help my confidence,” Shnaider said.

“I think I have done well to get my confidence back while also making the transition from clay to hard courts. I’ve got to just stay focused and the game will come. I am a bit tired now, but happy that I could win against a tough opponent,” she added.

The second highlight of the day was the fall of defending champion Snigur on Court No. 2.

The 20-year-old Ukrainian started strong with a couple of early breaks to push clear 3-0 in the first set. But, Sramkova just held her nerves and slowly made her way back into the match with breaks in the fourth and eighth to draw level.

After this, it looked like one-way traffic with the 20-year-old Snigur struggling to get a measure of her opponent from Slovakia.

Lina-Glushko-750x450Lina Glushko returns to Sandra Samir during their first round match.

“She played really fast in those early games. But, I just hung in there trying to see how long I could push to keep those rallies long. She’s a very good player and winning against her gives me a lot of confidence looking ahead,” Sramkova admitted.

The 26-year-old has struggled with a broken left toe that kept her away from tennis for the past four months. So the win couldn’t have come at a better time while making a re-entry on the competition trail.

“I do play with a certain amount of pain on my left foot, but then that’s the nature of our sport. Now that I’ve achieved this big win, I need to stay grounded and see how deep I can go into the draw over the next few days,” Sramkova disclosed.

In another match, Lina Glushko of Israel secured a 6-4, 6-3 win over Egyptian Sandra Samir.

Meanwhile, former champion Kateryna Bondarenko led the march of the top three seeds into the main draw of the women’s singles.

Bondarenko, who won the title in 2006, took nearly an hour and a half for her 6-1, 6-4 win against Bulgaria’s Lia Karatancheva to book her spot in the main draw of the competition.

Following the 36-year-old Bondarenko were top three seeds in qualifying rounds, including No. 1 seed Anastasia Zolotareva, No. 2 Anastasia Kulikova and third seed Xiaodi You from China.

Zolotareva took nearly two hours for a 3-6, 7-6 (4), 10-3 win over Great Britain’s Emily Appleton, while Kulikova had to dig in deep before getting past another Brit player Freya Christie before winning 6-2, 4-6, 10-8.

Xiaodi You also took nearly two hours for a narrow 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 win over Tatiana Prozorova before being joined by Thailand’s Peangtam Plipuech, who powered her way to a 6-3, 6-7 (2), 10-8 upset win over No. 4 Bektas.

A champion here in 2006, Bondarenko was delighted to have earned her spot in the main draw of the competition. “This has always been such a special place for me. It seems like a vacation each time I am here. My children enjoy the weather while I go about playing. I am always happy to be here,” the 36-year-old said.

That said, she really didn’t hold any high hopes of going all the way at this competition. “I’ve won once and that’s good enough for me. Right now, my focus is to ensure I try and move as deep as possible into the main draw,” Bondarenko disclosed.

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