Zaytseva sends Babos packing from Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge
05 Dec 2023
Ksenia Zaytseva returns to Timea Babos during their match at the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.
One more big name departed on the second day of the 26th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being held at the Habtoor Grand Resort, on Tuesday.
Timea Babos, a former four-time Grand Slam champion in women’s doubles, faltered as she went down 4-6, 4-6 against Ksenia Zaytseva, even as Heather Watson and Kristina Mladenovic successfully waded past their opponents to set a meeting against each other in the second round.
Watson got a good measure of an experienced former world number 2, Vera Zvonareva before winning 6-2, 7-6 (4), while Mladenovic battled through for a hard-fought 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 win over nearly three hours against Romanian, Cristina Dinu.
Watson’s reward will be a second tough encounter in as many days, this time against Mladenovic who landed late on Monday following her runners-up finish against Arina Rodionova at the W60 Trnava tournament in Slovakia, on Sunday.
“My first reaction is that I am so, so happy to get past the first round,” Watson beamed.
“This was an incredibly high-quality match and to match her [Zvonareva] is such a unique experience. She plays at such a top level all the time, and I am happy with the way I was able to get past her,” the 31-year-old added. Her next opponent is multiple Grand Slam winner Mladenovic.
“The priority now is to get the body back into shape and then watch the match [Mladenovic v Dinu] before I head back to the room and get some rest before my next match,” Watson related.
Watson, who enjoyed a terrific stint in her junior career while winning the gold medal at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games before clinching the US Open crown in 2009, was hopeful of a strong showing this week.
“I need to have a good gameplan in place for tomorrow,” Watson said. “Dubai is certainly one of my most favourite places, and to be here for the entire week would be one of the goals,” she added. Making the switch from indoors to outdoors, Mladenovic was pleased with the way she played against a gutsy Dinu.
“I am more than happy with this first win, and now to have a second match against Heather [Watson] is going to be like a huge match-up,” she said.
“I simply decided to dig in deep mentally against Dinu. This was some battle today, and I just said that I am not going to give up till the very end,” she added.
Meanwhile, fourth seed Arina Rodionova also fell in three sets following a marathon first-round match against Anastasia Tikhonova.
The Australian has been in awesome form while clinching her seventh ITF World Tennis Tour title last Sunday. The 33-year-old Australian took her second crown in as many weeks with a tough 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-1 win against Mladenovic at the W60 Tranava, on Sunday.
This was Rodionova’s second consecutive tournament win, following her triumph on Portuguese soil at W25 Lousada the previous week. India’s Ankita Raina’s presence in the singles was cut short by Great Britain’s Emily Appleton with a 6-2, 6-2 win earlier in the morning.
“I am happy doing the things I am meant to be doing,” Appleton said. “I was aware that she [Ankita] is a higher ranked player, and the idea was to just focus on my game. I doubt I need to do anything different now on.
“I am winning at the moment, so why change this formula?” she queried. Though disappointed with the result, Raina promised to battle on.
“The idea now would be to get back home [Pune, India] and see how best I can make the cut at the Australian Open. I need a few days off just to re-focus as this has not exactly been an easy season,” she said.