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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, February 21, 2017

 
Angelique Kerber

Top-seeded Angelique Kerber conquered Mona Barthel, 6-4, 6-3, setting up a rematch of the Olympic final vs. Monica Puig.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

On the night of the Dubai player gala, aggressive baseliners played party crashers turning the draw upside down.

Three of the top five seeds—second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova and fifth-seeded Garbine Muguruza—failed to survive the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Watch: Federer Floats, Wozniacki's Swimsuit Secret

Top-seeded Angelique Kerber restored a bit of order beating Mona Barthel, 6-4, 6-3, for her first victory since the Australian Open third round.

The reigning US Open champion will face Monica Puig in a rematch of the Rio Olympic Games’ gold-medal match last summer, which Puig won 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

The Olympic gold-medal champion saved seven of nine break points knocking off 15th-seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

“It’s a completely new match tomorrow,” Kerber said of playing Puig. “For sure I will try to give my best, try to win the match. I think it will be a good match tomorrow.”

World No. 31 Kristina Mladenovic continued her strong start to the season surprising Doha champion Pliskova, 6-2, 6-4, in 75 minutes.



Mladenovic avenged a 6-3, 4-6, 16-14 loss to Pliskova in the 2016 Fed Cup final.

The 23-year-old Frenchwoman, who won her first WTA title in St. Petersburg earlier this month, scored her third career victory over a Top-5 ranked player following a 2014 Roland Garros upset of then world No. 2 Li Na and a 2015 Birmingham victory over then world No. 3 Simona Halep. Mladenovic will play Qiang Wang for a quarterfinal spot.

Ekaterina Makarova backed up her Australian Open victory over Cibulkova hammering 12 aces and saving 12 of 15 break points in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 conquest of the third-seeded Slovak.

Next up for Makarova is a third-round encounter with 46th-ranked Lauren Davis who withstood 11 double faults defeating Kristyna Pliskova , 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.



Reigning Roland Garros champion Muguruza was trailing Kateryna Bondarenko, 1-4, when she retired from her opener due to left Achilles inflammation.

Wild card Peng Shuai dismissed ninth-seeded Barbora Strycova, the 2016 finalist, 6-3, 6-2.

It wasn’t all bad for seeds.

No. 4-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska rolled Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens, 6-3, 6-2, in 69 minutes.

The 2012 Dubai champion, who was coming off an opening-round Doha loss to Caroline Wozniacki, will take on 17-year-old American Catherine Bellis for a quarterfinal spot.



The 70th-ranked American toppled Laura Siegemund, 7-5, 7-6 (3).

In an all-German match-up, Kerber began finding her range as the match progressed.

Stepping into a forehand return, Kerber drove the ball deep rattling out an error to convert the first break point for 3-2.

The second serve has been Kerber’s most suspect stroke this season. She struggled to win points behind it at the outset of today’s match.

Squandering a 40-15 lead, the top seed sprayed a forehand wide then sent a backhand long giving back the break.

Barthel couldn’t build on it sending a crosscourt backhand wide—her third error of the game—as Kerber scored her second straight break for 4-3.

A crisp running forehand strike down the line helped Kerber consolidate at 15.

Showing stiff resistance, Barthel saved two break points with a pair of winners. The lanky German cranked a couple of backhand winners down the line holding for 4-5.

Lining up a mid-court forehand Kerber sprayed the shot wide on her third set point then yelled at herself at the transgression. Skipping her third double fault deep she wasted a fourth set point.

On her fifth set point, Kerber worked deep crosscourt combinations finally drawing the error to end the 41-minute opener. Barthel betrayed her own cause with 19 unforced errors, including five double faults.

The good news for Kerber: She kept calm amid missed opportunities. The bad news: She won just three of 11 points played on her second serve.

Both women earned break points at the start of the second, but neither could break through. Barthel warded off a pair of break points holding for 2-1.




Earning the first break of the set, Kerber could not make it stand missing back-to-back forehands as Barthel broke back for 3-all.

A pulsating 26-shot rally left both women gulping in deep breaths of air. That long exchange gave Kerber the repetition she craves. The left-hander dragged a forehand crosscourt that Barthel could not handle breaking for 4-3.


"It's always tough to play against a German," Kerber said. "For sure I’m happy about my performance tonight. I’m just trying to play my game, focusing on every point. It's nice to play in the next round."

Bullying Barthel around the court with her forehand, Kerber cranked a crosscourt forehand collecting her fifth win of the season in 78 minutes.

 

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