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Tennis Round-up: Unseeded Bencic upsets Kvitova to win Dubai title

February 24, 2019 14:14 IST

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic celebrates with a trophy after winning the Dubai Tennis Championship against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday

IMAGE: Switzerland's Belinda Bencic celebrates with a trophy after winning the Dubai Tennis Championship against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic ended a four-year title drought with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 victory over Petra Kvitova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.

Victory gave Bencic, 21, her first win over second seed Kvitova, who had breezed past her in straight sets in the third round of the Australian Open last month.

 

The win was also Bencic's fourth win over a top-10 player this week after getting past Aryna Sabalenka, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina in the previous rounds.

"It's unbelievable, it's incredible. I mean, I still cannot believe it," Bencic told reporters after clinching her first title since she won the Canadian Open in Toronto in 2015.

"I'm so happy about the consistency that I could back up my wins. After playing a tough match, I could mentally win another one; it's very difficult."

Kvitova continued to struggle with her rhythm, as she had during the course of the tournament, hitting only 53 percent of first serves on target in the opening set and she also produced seven double faults.

"I think I played better in Melbourne," Kvitova said.

"I think definitely I served much, much better in Melbourne than here.

"(During the) whole tournament I was fighting with my serve. It wasn't really great, I played a lot from the second serve."

Bencic took the first set with a searing backhand volley that got the crowd on their feet, finally winning a set against the world number four in their fourth meeting.

Kvitova, however, stepped up her game in the second to break Bencic three times and bagged the set with some powerful forehand returns and by coming up to the net.

But it was Bencic who won the mental battle in the third set by breaking Kvitova at 1-1 before winning another break point at 4-2 to serve for the match.

Kvitova's return on match point went long, a decision that was reviewed, to give Bencic the win in an hour and 43 minutes. She is the second Swiss player to win the tournament after Martina Hingis won the inaugural edition in 2001.

Evans in second career final after upsetting Isner at Delray

Briton Dan Evans spoke of his resilience after reaching his second career final with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 upset of second seed John Isner at the Delray Beach Open in Florida on Saturday.

Less than a year after returning from a 12-month cocaine suspension, Evans staged a remarkable turnaround to set up a final against Moldovan Radu Albot after a slow start to the afternoon semi-final.

Isner took command early, breaking Evans in the second game and winning the first set without facing a break point as his booming serve held him in good stead in blustery winds on the outdoor hardcourt.

Evans fought back, however, breaking Isner twice in quick succession to capture the second set before breaking again in the second game of the final set, aided by an Isner foot fault.

The Briton displayed few nerves as he held serve throughout the final set, closing out in style with four first-serve winners to clinch the final game to love.

"I got, not lucky, but I started to see his serve pretty well," Evans told reporters.

"I wouldn't say guessing, but anticipating and got 'em right. Other days I could be looking stupid going (the wrong way).

"I returned really well when I got my racket on the ball, and that was my goal just to get the ball back."

Evans previously appeared in a final at the 2017 Sydney International, where he was beaten by Gilles Muller.

After a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open in his next tournament, his career seemed poised to take off, but a few months later he tested positive for cocaine.

Asked what the experience had taught him, Evans said: "You've got to stay resilient in the sport.

"(Tennis is) so up and down. Obviously my down was from my own wrongdoing.

"There can be injuries. Let's say mine was a mental injury. (It was important to) keep believing because I could never imagine I'd be back close to the top 100 in such a small amount of time."

He swatted away a suggestion his suspension had been a growing experience.

"I made a mistake and I dealt with it and that was it. It was the worst thing ever, so I'm just back now trying to win tennis matches and stay on top of everything."

Albot, 29, will be playing in his first ever final after thrashing American Mackenzie McDonald 3-6, 6-0, 6-0 in one hour and 30 minutes.

After falling behind in the opening set, Albot gained momentum from his opponent's unforced errors and cantered through the final two stanzas.

Albot had reached two previous ATP Tour semi-finals, in Metz last September and in Montpellier earlier this month, but lost on both occasions.

A win against Evans in the final on Sunday would make him the first Moldovan to win an ATP Tour title.

Canadian teenager through to Rio Open final

Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime became the youngest man to reach an ATP 500 final on Saturday when he overcame Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to progress to the final of the Rio Open.

The 18-year-old will meet Laslo Djere on Sunday in a battle of first-time finalists after the Serbian's opponent Aljaz Bedene withdrew from the tournament with a leg injury.

Auger-Aliassime had never reached the semi-final stage of any ATP tournament before coming to Brazil but he was outstanding against the 33-year-old Uruguayan, the Rio champion in 2016.

He landed 88 per cent of his first serves in the decisive third set and saved five break points earned by his experienced opponent.

Auger-Aliassime is just the fourth teenager to reach the final of an ATP 500 -- the 13 tournaments which rank just below the Masters series -- since the level was created in 2009.

The previous youngest was now world number three Alexander Zverev, who reached the final of the Halle tournament in 2016 aged 19.

Currently 104th in the world, the victory will see Auger-Aliassime break into the top 100 when the new rankings are announced on Monday.

Tsitsipas sets up final with Kukushkin in Marseille

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas moved one step closer to his third singles title with a 7-6(1), 6-2 win over Belgium's David Goffin in the semi-finals of the Marseille Open on Saturday.

Top seed Tsitsipas, who knocked 20-times Grand Slam winner Roger Federer out of the Australian Open last month, has yet to drop a set in the tournament and wrapped up the match in 70 minutes to set up a final with Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

The opening set went with serve until Tsitsipas cracked at 5-5, allowing his opponent to break. But the Greek number one broke back in the next game to take the set to a tiebreak, where he dominated the 28-year-old Goffin.

Tsitsipas then powered through the second set, breaking Goffin twice to seal victory and winning 93 percent of his points on his first serve.

Earlier, Kukushkin ended French wildcard Ugo Humbert's run with a 6-4, 6-4 victory that took an hour and 33 minutes.

The 31-year-old won 83 percent of his first-serve points and now hopes to win his first ATP Tour final since his maiden title at the St. Petersburg Open nine years ago.

Tsitsipas and Kukushkin have met twice before, including a qualifier, with the 20-year-old Greek prevailing on both occasions. The final is on Sunday.

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