Belinda Bencic returns to Marta Kostyuk during their Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open match on Wednesday.
Second seed Belinda Bencic got her campaign up and running with a victory to progress to the quarter-finals of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, on a day in which China’s rising star Qinwen Zheng stunned fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko.
At the International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Bencic was made to work in her first match of the tournament, winning 6-4, 7-5 against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.
Bencic made the perfect start to the match, taking the first set 6-4 and led early in the second set. However Kostyuk rallied to go 5-3 up before Bencic levelled the score at 5-5. The Swiss then broke again to take 6-5 and held her serve to win 7-5.
Bencic has a win-loss record of 9-2 so far this year, which includes her seventh career singles title at the Adelaide International in January. Her only two losses this season have been to World No.1 Iga Swiatek at United Cup and eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open Round of 16.
Speaking after the match, said: “It was a good first match of the tournament for me and it was tough for me. I’m happy with how the match went and there are some things that I think I can improve on but it’s nice to get into the next round.”
Earlier in the day, 20-year-old Zheng produced a strong display to beat World No.12 Ostapenko 7-6, 6-1 to book a last-eight clash against either top seed Daria Kasatkina or Jil Teichmann.
Ostapenko raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Zheng showed why she is a bright prospect as she converted a break point and later held her serve to bring to level the scores. Both players continued to play impressive shots, forcing a marathon tie-break in which Zheng finally prevailed 10-8 in a set which lasted 1hr and 18 minutes.
Zheng maintained her form, dominating the second set to seal the victory.
Speaking after her match, Zheng, the World No.29, said: “I didn’t start the match well as I was 3-0 down but I fought back to earn a tie-break. It was a close set and I was happy that I withheld the pressure to take the opening set.
“I like to play in difficult moments and in tennis you always need to play good in tough moments to become the best player. Today was the longest tie-break game that I have played and I am happy to have won the match.”
It was Zheng’s second win over Ostapenko in as many meetings, having already defeated the Latvian 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round of last year’s US Open.
Reprising that result puts the 20-year-old into her third quarter-final at WTA 500 level or above in the past seven months, following Toronto last August and a maiden tour final in Tokyo last September.
In the other singles match, fourth seed and World Number 11 Veronika Kudermetova breezed past Elise Mertens to win 6-1, 7-5. The 25-year-old will now meet Liudmila Samsonova or Barbora Krejcikova for a place in the semi-finals.
Fourth seed Kudermetova, said: “It was a very good match for me and I started the first set really well and was happy with my all-round performance. She then played a little bit better and although I had chances to win the match at 5-2, I’m overall pleased with how I played over the two sets.”
Meanwhile in the doubles category, Luisa Stefani (Brazil) and Shuai Zhang (China) advanced to the last-eight following a 6-7, 6-3, 10-5 win against Kazakstan’s Anna Danilina and Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kichenok.
Desirae Krawczyk and Giuliana Olmos ran out 6-1, 6-2 winners against Tereza Mihalikova and Yifan Xu while Nicola Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez were knocked out by Shuko Aoyama and Hao-Ching Chan after losing 7-6, 7-5.
The spectators will have the chance to see World No.8 and top seed Daria Kasatkina for the first time in the tournament on Thursday where the 25-year-old will take on Jil Tiechmann in the last-16.