Top names tumble in brutal first round of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Belinda Bencic at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Defending champion Belinda Bencic and former two-time winner Elina Svitolina were surprise first-round casualties at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

Third seed Svitolina was stunned by American qualifier Jennifer Brady, going down 6-2 6-1 in just an hour.

Brady, who beat world number one Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane last month, told the WTA website: “Maybe she just didn’t get the best start and I was able to just keep my foot on the gas and take over from there.

“I think I served pretty well throughout the whole match. I started off strong on the serve and was able to apply pressure on the return games. I think just from the beginning maybe she felt my presence.”

A couple of hours later Swiss fourth seed Bencic was beaten 1-6 6-1 6-1 by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Bencic won the first 19 points of the match on her way to the opening set, but Russian Pavlyuchenkova staged a remarkable comeback.

“I just kept on fighting, still trying to hit every ball, trying to be there,” said Pavlyuchenkova.

“Mentally I was quite positive, just playing point by point – even though it was 5-0 and I thought ‘oh my God, it’s embarrassing, so bad’.

“I think it helped me going into the second set because I took that mentality, that mindset of being positive and fighting, trying to do my thing.”

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin also fell by the wayside, the American fifth seed beaten 6-7 (2) 6-3 6-3 by Elena Rybakina.

Seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus came through in three sets against Greece’s Maria Sakkari and there were also wins for Petra Martic, Anett Kontaveit, Kristina Mladenovic, Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova.

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