Iga Swiatek sweeps past Sloane Stephens in Dubai


World No 1 Iga Swiatek came through a tactical battle to see off Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday to set up a clash with Elina Svitolina, the winner of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2017 and 2018.

Swiatek didn’t have it all her own way against Stephens, who secured an early break of serve to take a 2-1 lead. An unforced error on break point on her own serve in the very next game restored parity but the experienced American atoned for her mistake straight away, taking on the Swiatek serve to record a double break with some aggressive tennis.

The pair proceeded to trade breaks in games six through eight but Swiatek started to show why she is the world’s top-ranked player, holding serve and taking out Stephens’ serve for a fourth time to seal the first set.

With both players seemingly still trying to work each other out, the second set got off to a cagey start. Swiatek, fresh off victory in Doha last week, held serve to take the opening game.

Yet Stephens refused to be outgunned by a player ranked 40 places above her in the opening exchanges and held firm to take the set to 4-4.

After holding serve in game nine, the 2023 Dubai finalist Swiatek turned up the power in Stephens’ next service game to take a 6-4, 6-4 victory and move into the last 16, where she will face 15th seed Svitolina.

Meanwhile, third seed Coco Gauff joins Swiatek in the next round after producing a powerful performance to see off Italy’s Elisabettta Cocciaretto 6-1, 7-5.

Gauff, a semi-finalist in Dubai last year, raced into a two-game lead in Tuesday's final match on Centre Court. Cocciaretto broke back in game three, but Gauff, the reigning US Open champion powered through the next four games to take the opening set.

In the second set, Gauff broke her opponent’s serve in consecutive games to race into a 3-0 lead. But Cocciaretto was in no mood to be rolled over and hit back with three breaks of her own to level the set at 3-3 and then 4-4.

That seemed to be the wake up call the US Open champion needed and she broke serve again to take a 5-4 lead. Despite an immediate response, Gauff stood firm to see out the next two games to seal victory.

Her opponent in the next round is Karolina Pliskova, a beaten finalist in Dubai in 2015, who recovered from losing a first set tie-break to register a 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Ashlyn Krueger. Elsewhere, No 6 seed Qinwen Zheng survived a scare, battling back from a set down to beat
Japanese qualifier Nao Hibino 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 to book her place in the last 16.

More from Sports