Trio of top seeds sent packing at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 21: Caroline Garcia of France in action against Madison Keys of the United States during her second round match on Day 3 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on February 21, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Top seeds tumbled for a second successive afternoon under the sun as the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships threw up more surprises with fourth seed Caroline Garcia, sixth-seeded Maria Sakkari, and No.7 seed Daria Kastakina all falling at the first hurdle inside the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

Just 24 hours after 10th seed Veronika Kudermetova and No.11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia lost their first-round matches, Sakkari joined them in making an early exit from the WTA 1000 event, losing 6-1, 6-2 at the hands of the impressive Karolina Pliskova on Court One.

Picking up where she left off in her first-round match – where she lost just five games – Pliskova, a runner-up here in 2015 and two-time Grand Slam finalist, made light work of her Greek opponent, winning in just 69 minutes to book a place in round three.

“I’m really happy with the way I played,” said Pliskova. “It’s not every day you beat the sixth seed 6-1, 6-2! I also played a really good match in the first round, so I’m happy with my tennis. I’ve had many good tournaments in the past here. I missed last year so I’m happy to be back. I have my family with me, my sister with her baby, so I feel quite relaxed.

“I can’t look too far ahead though because my game can go up and down fast, so we’ll just look at the next match. With this one, I knew if I played well I could win, so I’ll hopefully carry that forward.”

In the day’s opening match on Centre Court, Madison Keys continued her fantastic form. Fresh from dropping just two games in her first-round victory, the American ace needed just 1hr 48mins to beat World No.5 Garcia 7-5, 6-4.

The pair traded early breaks before Keys broke again in game 11 and held on to take the first set. Keys, the 2017 US Open finalist, broke Garcia again in game three of the second set and never looked back, serving out the match. Before focusing on her third-round match, Keys had the small matter of preparing for a doubles match with Sania Mirza, who is playing her final tournament this week before retiring.

“Caroline is such an amazing player and had a great end to the year and has been playing at her top level,” said a delighted Keys. “I knew I was going to have to play well, especially in that second set, take care of my serve and I’m happy to get the win.

Madison Keys (USA) defeats Caroline Garcia (FRA) in their second-round singles match at WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, Dubai, UAE.

“I’m really nervous [about her match with Mirza]. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been for a match. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’ll do my best for Sania.”

Daria Kastakina was another of the top seeds to tumble on a warm Tuesday afternoon. The No.7 seed was no match for Czech opponent Barbora Krejcikova, who triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

There was better news for the top seeds later in the afternoon as No.3 seed Jessica Pegula navigated a tricky Centre Court clash with Viktoriya Tomova to book her place in the third round. American Pegula, ranked No.3 in the world, burst out of the blocks, taking the first set 6-2, but qualifier Tomova hit back, breaking Pegula three times to win the set 7-5 and take the match to a decider.

Clearly annoyed by her second-set performance, Pegula stormed back in the third, taking the first five games before closing out the match 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. “It was tough out there – I’m exhausted now, but happy to get the win,” said Pegula after her victory. “I’ll get plenty of recovery and be ready to go tomorrow.