Simona Halep beat Lesia Tsurenko for the second time in the space of a week to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep grasped the opportunity to make up points on world number one Naomi Osaka - beaten by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match of the tournament - with a 6-3 7-5 victory on Wednesday.

Third seed Halep knocked Tsurenko out of the Qatar Open en route to the final, which she lost against Elise Mertens, and got the better of the Ukrainian again seven days later in testing conditions due to the wind.

The French Open champion will face Belinda Bencic or Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after breaking seven times and making 17 unforced errors to 28 from Tsurenko.

Halep's positive approach paid off in a first set that included six breaks, Tsurenko losing four service games in a row as the world number two applied the pressure.

The 23-ranked Tsurenko sprayed a forehand long to conclude the opening set, but won the first two games of the second to offer hope she could at least go the distance.

Halep broke back to level at 2-2 and again when Tsurenko had the opportunity to serve out the set, the Romanian mixing up a perfectly executed dropshot with measured groundstrokes.

The 2015 champion then broke to love to seal a straight-sets victory as she eyes a first title of the season.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina was among those to progress at the Dubai Tennis Championships as Naomi Osaka was the only truly high-profile name to crash out on Tuesday.

Osaka, who announced last week she had split from coach Sascha Bajin, was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match as world number one, losing in straight sets in just over an hour after a shoddy display.

But the majority of the other seeds in the draw progressed, including Svitolina and Simona Halep, who breezed past Eugenie Bouchard.

Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber both battled back from early deficits, while Karolina Pliskova beat Dominika Cibulkova, with Garbine Muguruza easing to victory over Zheng Saisai. Aryna Sabalenka thrashed Ivana Jorovic.

Some seeds did join Osaka in exiting, though, with Kiki Bertens departing after defeat in a third-set tie-break to Viktoria Kuzmova, while Caroline Garcia went down to Jennifer Brady in straight sets.

MOTIVATED BY HISTORY

Svitolina has triumphed in Dubai in the last two years, matching the back-to-back achievements of Justine Henin (twice) and Venus Williams, and could become the first woman to win three in a row.

But the Ukrainian did not have it all her own way for a time on Tuesday, trailing to an early Ons Jabeur break before rallying and seeing her opponent bow out with injury.

And Svitolina is very aware of the potential of a groundbreaking achievement, later revealing that she was motivated to recover due to that very opportunity.

"It's definitely a big motivation for me," she said. "When I was 0-2 down, I told myself, 'Come on, you are here to make history in this tournament'."

 

OSAKA NOT WORRIED

Osaka looked a shadow of her usual self as she was beaten in her first match since the Australian Open.

The top seed never got going and, despite breaking several times in the second set, found herself unable to hold serve as Mladenovic claimed a famous victory.

Rising star Osaka does not believe the defeat provides cause for concern, though, explaining: "The Australian Open was not even a month ago. This was just one match.

"I feel like, even if I don't win any matches for the rest of the year, I wouldn't say I'm concerned. I think I'm pretty young. I still feel like I have a lot to learn."

STARS WORKED HARD

Kvitova and Kerber might have avoided the embarrassment of Osaka's defeat, but they were far from comfortable in their own victories.

Second seed Kvitova lost the opening set to Katerina Siniakova before staging a recovery to win 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4.

Meanwhile, Kerber was two breaks down to Dalila Jakupovic in the first set, trailing 5-1 and saving two set points. A stunning response set up a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 success.

Second seed Kirsten Flipkens was forced to withdraw from the Hungarian Ladies Open ahead of her opening match in Budapest on Tuesday.

The 2018 doubles finalist had been set to begin her campaign against Evgeniya Rodina but, having suffered with illness last week, she pulled out earlier in the day.

Rodina instead faced lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova and came through a topsy-turvy contest 6-0 4-6 6-2.

Johanna Larsson - Flipkens' doubles partner at this tournament - was the only other seed on the slate for Tuesday, but she was upset in a 6-1 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Kateryna Kozlova.

Elsewhere, home hopeful Anna Bondar let a one-set lead slip to lose in three to Sorana Cirstea in the day's late match.

There were also wins for Anna Blinkova, against Natalia Vikhlyantseva in three sets, and Iga Swiatek, who saw off Olga Danilovic 6-3 6-0. Elsewhere, Tereza Smitkova defeated Ysaline Bonaventure.

Naomi Osaka endured a tough start to life as world number one as she was dumped out of the Dubai Tennis Championships by Kristina Mladenovic.

The 21-year-old climbed to the top of the rankings for the first time after winning a second consecutive grand slam title at the Australian Open at the start of the year, yet her form deserted her as she returned to action on Tuesday.

Playing without a full-time coach following Sascha Bajin's departure - instead aided by Japan Tennis Association trainer Masashi Yoshikawa - Osaka floundered early on and could not recover.

Mladenovic ran out a 6-3 6-3 winner and upset the assembled Japanese fans who witnessed a surprisingly flat performance from the evening's star attraction.

Osaka was slow to get going in front of an expectant crowd and was quickly broken twice, first finding the net after a series of sloppy serves and then bowing again under pressure from Mladenovic.

The Japanese responded to the second setback in style, breaking back after a pair of stunning returns brought her fans to their feet, yet a double fault at the end of another disappointing service game handed Mladenovic the opening set.

Osaka had her head in her hands as she dropped three consecutive points and received a time violation at the start of the second, swiftly suffering another break at the hands of a now rampant opponent.

That was the first of seven breaks in succession, with Osaka returning well but repeatedly giving up her foothold in the match, shrugging bemusedly as she failed to hold serve for the seventh time in the set.

Mladenovic then had the opportunity to serve out the match and she assuredly delivered to clinch victory inside 65 minutes.

Simona Halep held off the challenge of Eugenie Bouchard on Tuesday to advance to the third round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The Romanian, champion at this event three years ago, prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to move into the round of 16, where Lesia Tsurenko or Zhu Lin await.

Bouchard has failed to rescale the heights of 2014, which produced a Wimbledon final appearance as well as runs to the last four of both the Australian and French Opens, but the Canadian showed signs of promise against the world number two.

After a closely contested and high-quality opening set went to a tie-break, the third seed found another gear in the second and closed out the victory, improving her head-to-head record against the world number 79 to 4-1.

Bouchard had been soundly beaten 6-2 6-2 in the pair's previous meeting at the 2018 Australian Open but she made an encouraging start here only to net a backhand volley with the court wide open at 2-2 30-30 on her opponent's serve.

Halep made the most of that escape to hold and then break as Bouchard erred on the backhand side, but the match was immediately back on serve as Halep netted a forehand in the next game.

A forehand winner gave a Halep a 4-2 lead at the changeover in the tie-break and the first set was hers as Bouchard sent a volley long with the court open once more.

Halep maintained her momentum with a break to start the second - one which was consolidated by a remarkable forehand pass by way of response to Bouchard's attempted smash.

Halep, beaten by Elise Mertens in Saturday's Qatar Open final having been a set up, showed no signs of a similar lapse here, dropping just three points in her final four service games before Bouchard's long forehand wrapped up a consummate victory.

Serena Williams is aiming to put the disappointment of two major final losses in 2018 behind her and surpass Margaret Court's record grand slam haul this year, according to her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Former world number one Williams returned to the WTA Tour last March, just six months after giving birth to her daughter and suffering complications in the aftermath, and managed to reach the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.

The American, who was forced to pull out of the French Open due to a shoulder issue, lost to Angelique Kerber at the All England Club and went down to Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows, a match that was overshadowed by her dispute with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams' hopes of drawing level with Margaret Court on 24 grand slam wins at this year's Australian Open were extinguished by Karolina Pliskova at the quarter-final stage, but Mouratoglou assured her ambitions remain high for the rest of 2019.

"Her target has always been to win grand slams and that's why she came back, because she believes – and of course I believe too – that she is able," Mouratoglou said at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2019.

"She has the level to win grand slams. She was close two times last year, played to grand slam finals, so this year the goal is to do better than last year and win the last two that are missing, and then we see.

"What Serena has achieved over the last 20 years is unique in the history of the sport, but she's a unique person, she's a unique player and we will do everything to beat that record, so she stays in all the [history] books forever."

Mouratoglou was impressed that Osaka managed to follow up her maiden major triumph at the US Open by winning the Australian Open, though the world number one's decision to split with coach Sascha Bajin surprised him.

"Naomi achieved something incredible. She won her first grand slam and right after she won another, which is something so rare in our sport, whether for men or women," he said.

"Usually you need a lot of time to recover and you experience a new pressure as a grand slam winner and it takes time and she's been able to bounce back and this shows incredible mental strength.

"It's clearly strange [the split with Bajin], it's not something you're used to seeing. It's her choice and we have to respect it and she probably had her reasons and they didn't want to talk about it, so we have to respect it."

Caroline Wozniacki revealed she has struggled with a viral illness for almost two months after withdrawing from the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The former world number one, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before last year's US Open, pulled out of a second tournament in succession and had her place taken in the main draw by Polona Hercog, who was defeated by fellow lucky loser Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-2.

Elise Mertens, seeded 16th, claimed the biggest title of her career at the Qatar Open at the weekend but she fell to a 5-7 6-4 7-5 loss against Zhu Lin on Monday.

Seeds Anett Kontaveit (15) and Julia Goerges (13) also suffered early exits.


WOZNIACKI'S WOES

After announcing her withdrawal, Wozniacki explained she has been feeling unwell since Christmas, despite her condition improving after the Australian Open.

"It hasn't been the greatest start, the start that I'd hope for," said Wozniacki. "I picked something up at Christmas at home and it was lingering a bit all the way through Australia and after that I felt good for a couple of weeks. Then I came to Doha and then the day of my match I woke up and I felt terrible.

"It's just one of those things, you can't do anything about it. I just have to stay positive and try to do everything in my power to get better. Indian Wells and Miami is right around the corner, but thankfully not right around the corner. Hoping to be 100 per cent for both of those.

"When you have RA [rheumatoid arthritis], my immune system is not working on as high of a level as normal so it's taking me longer to get over stuff like this."

 

SEEDS LEARN OPPONENTS

Kristina Mladenovic defeated Fatma Al Nabhani 6-1 6-1 to set up a meeting with world number one Naomi Osaka, while Ons Jabeur will take on reigning champion Elina Svitolina after overcoming Donna Vekic 6-4 7-6 (11-9).

Dalila Jakupovic came from a set down to advance past Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-1 6-2 to book a date with Angelique Kerber, while Karolina Pliskova lies in wait for Dominika Cibulkova after the Slovakian triumphed 5-7 6-1 6-2 against Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena, who appeared to be struggling with injury.


OSTAPENKO IN TURMOIL

It was an emotional match for Jelena Ostapenko as she struggled with her serve, holding just once and committing 11 double faults in a 6-4 6-0 defeat to Jennifer Brady. 

The 2017 French Open champion received treatment on her back and appeared tearful both during the changeovers and prior to serving in the second set. 

Ostapenko finally held serve from 15-40 in game eight of the first set, but Brady - who will next meet Caroline Garcia, a comfortable 6-2 6-0 winner against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - reeled off the next eight games in succession to seal the victory. 


HONEST ANETT

Needing to hold to clinch victory in the match, Zhang Shuai started the ninth game of the second set by drilling a serve beyond Kontaveit, only for it to be called out.

However, Kontaveit said it touched the line and gave the point to her opponent. Zhang went on to seal a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory and posted a tweet calling her opponent a "nice and honest girl" for her action.

Andrea Petkovic dropped just one game against Ana Bogdan to cruise into the second round of the Hungarian Ladies Open.

Sixth seed Petkovic took just 57 minutes to see off Bogdan in Budapest, winning 73 per cent of points on her first serve to advance in comfortable fashion.

The German will take on 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova, a 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4) victor against Heather Watson, in round two.

Tamara Korpatsch put up more of a fight in the second set but was unable to avoid a 6-0 7-5 loss to fourth seed Aleksandra Krunic.

Pauline Parmentier overcame Ana Konjuh 7-5 6-3, while Arantxa Rus downed Fiona Ferro 7-5 6-3.

Novak Djokovic and Simone Biles have been named Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year respectively.

ATP world number one Djokovic beat fellow nominees Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James, Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric and Eliud Kipchoge to claim the award for the fourth time – only Roger Federer has won it more.

The rejuvenated Serbian recovered from a loss of form and persistent elbow injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, earning a return to the top of the rankings.

Djokovic said: "A Laureus Award is what every athlete wants to win, and this one is a huge honour for me. Being among so many sporting greats here tonight, and hearing about the inspirational work Laureus is doing around the world, gives this Award a special meaning for me.

"Last year was an incredible season for me, returning from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open is something I'll remember forever. I am delighted and I would like to thank the Laureus Academy for their support."

Biles became the first woman to win a fourth all-around title at the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships.

The American claimed a record-breaking four golds – she has now amassed an unprecedented 14 at the worlds – in Doha and added one silver and a bronze.

Naomi Osaka received the World Breakthrough of the Year award after claiming her first grand slam title at the US Open, while Didier Deschamps accepted the prize for World Team of the Year on behalf of FIFA World Cup winners France.

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was given the Lifetime Achievement award and Cesc Fabregas, Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Figo and Fabio Capello were among those to give him a guard of honour at the ceremony in Monaco.

Skiing great Lindsey Vonn received recognition for her illustrious career in the shape of the Spirit of Sport Award.

Serena Williams has returned to the top 10 of the WTA rankings for the first time since taking a break from tennis to have a baby.

The 23-time major champion won the Australian Open in January 2017 while still in the early stages of her pregnancy before giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September of that year.

Williams returned at Indian Wells in March 2018, having dropped as low as 491 in the standings, but Monday's update saw the 37-year-old ascend back to number 10 in the world.

The American has not featured this season since a quarter-final defeat to Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open but has moved up the rankings due to some of her rivals' failures to defend their points.

Naomi Osaka, who triumphed at Melbourne Park after defeating Williams at the US Open in the final major of 2018, remains at number one, while Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens each move up one place to second and third respectively as Petra Kvitova drops down to fourth on the list.

Caroline Wozniacki has been forced to withdraw from the Dubai Tennis Championships due to a viral illness.

World number 14 Wozniacki pulled out of last week's Qatar Open due to the issue and has been unable to recover in time to compete in the United Arab Emirates.

The Dane was initially scheduled to face Sam Stosur in the first round on Monday, but the 2011 US Open champion was replaced by lucky loser Stefanie Voegele due to personal reasons.

Voegele will now take on another lucky loser in Polona Hercog.

"I'm just trying to recover after taking a few days off in bed, drinking some tea and feeling better for sure," said Wozniacki at the draw ceremony on Saturday.

She has not returned to the court since suffering a third-round loss to Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open in January.

 

Garbine Muguruza was among the winners at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Sunday while 2018 runner-up Daria Kasatkina also advanced to the second round.

Kasatkina, beaten by Elina Svitolina in the decider 12 months ago, did not have things all her own way against Magdalena Frech and neither did Muguruza against Dayana Yastremska, to whom she has already lost this year.

Day one of the Premier 5 hard-court event saw a stunning comeback from Aliaksandra Sasnovich while there were also wins for Kristina Mladenovic, Viktoria Kuzmova, Lesia Tsurenko, Belinda Bencic and Eugenie Bouchard.

 

ONE MATCH AT A TIME FOR MUGURUZA

Muguruza looked in danger of a third successive defeat to Yastremska when she dropped the first set to the Ukrainian, before fighting back strongly to seal a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory on her seventh match point as her opponent sent a return wide.

The Spaniard, seeded 12th, advances to a second-round meeting with Zheng Saisai, who overcame Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2 4-6 7-5, and the two-time semi-finalist knows the Chinese will provide a stern test.

"I love coming here, it's such an entertaining tournament. I did well in the past so it's always good to be back," Muguruza said. "She [Yastremska] was playing very well the previous two times, she played better today but I managed to increase my levels and win.

"I've certainly been kind of close, but that [the title] is very far away, come on it's only the first round, I don't want to think about that yet. I played her [Zheng] also recently, every match here is very difficult, it's such an important tournament and I'm ready to fight."

 

MIXED RESULTS FOR FORMER FINALISTS

Kasatkina was pushed hard by Frech before prevailing 6-3 3-6 6-4 and the Russian hopes a return to Dubai will kick-start a season that has yielded only one prior victory - a walkover following Maria Sharapova's withdrawal in St Petersburg.

"It was a very tough match with long rallies, we played more than two hours so I'm a little bit tired but happy I won," she said in her on-court interview. "I'm not playing my best tennis at the moment but I'm hoping this match will give me confidence and I'll correct this crisis.

"Yesterday I came here, there was nobody in the stadium and I just sat there [in the stands] with my friend and reminded myself of some memories of last year and I'm happy to come back here."

Alize Cornet, who lost to Venus Williams in the 2014 final, eased past Timea Babos 6-4 6-3 but it was a different story for 2016 champion Sara Errani, who took the first set against Ivana Jorovic only to be beaten 4-6 6-4 6-2.

 

SASNOVICH BACK FROM THE BRINK

The comeback of the day undoubtedly belonged to Sasnovich, who pulled off a remarkable turnaround to defeat Ekaterina Makarova.

Sasnovich suffered the ignominy of being bagelled in the opening set and the writing appeared to be on the wall when she was broken for a second time in the second set to fall 4-1 behind.

But remarkably, the Belarusian won six of the next seven games - including three breaks of her own - to force a decider, where both players showed frailties on serve before Sasnovich eventually prevailed 0-6 7-5 6-4 to set up a meeting with Hsieh Su-wei, who knocked out 10th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-4 6-2.

Simona Halep has confirmed her brief collaboration with Thierry Van Cleemput has come to an end.

The former world number one announced the link-up with the Belgian coach ahead of travelling to Ostrava to help Romania beat Czech Republic in the Fed Cup.

Halep worked alongside Van Cleemput en route to the Qatar Open final, where she was beaten in three sets by Elise Mertens on Saturday.

However, the French Open winner said she will no longer work with Van Cleemput as they are not a compatible match.

"So, we tried for one week and it's finished," Halep told WTA Insider. 

"We decided to stop because we are not a good fit together. He's a good person, a very nice person, but on court the chemistry is not there.

"We couldn't fit each other tennis-wise. Personally, he is a very nice person. We are friends."

Halep split with former coach Darren Cahill during tennis' close season, with the Australian saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

It was under Cahill that Halep scaled the WTA rankings and made her grand slam breakthrough at Roland Garros.

And the 27-year-old says she is in no rush to appoint a new permanent coach.

"I can say that I am not looking [for a coach] at the moment," Halep said. 

"I have my team, I have my hitting partner with me. I feel good like this and I will take my time. 

"I know I said that when I started the year and then I changed my mind because I felt I need a coach. 

"Still, now I feel like I need that freedom, just to stay and just to play with what I learned from Darren for years. 

"Now I feel more relaxed, I feel more chilled. The priorities are changing a little bit. I'm more responsible for myself and I try to solve my own problems, on court and off court."

World number one Naomi Osaka said she would rather surround herself with "people that I really like" after splitting with coach Sascha Bajin.

Osaka announced last week that she was ending a partnership that had yielded two grand slam titles and seen her climb to the top of the rankings.

And the 21-year-old revealed it was a decision that had been coming since the Australian Open, where she overcame Petra Kvitova in the final.

"I think during the Australian Open, I was just trying to tell myself to get through it," Osaka said. "I'm not sure, but I think you guys noticed.

"Everyone thinks it was a money-related issue, but it wasn't. For me, that's one of the most hurtful things I've ever heard. I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family. I would never do that to them.

"I'm not going to say anything bad about him because, of course, I'm really grateful for all the things that he's done. I wouldn't come here and say anything bad.

"The biggest thing is I don't want myself to think to be successful I have to put success over happiness, because if I'm not happy being around certain people I'm not going to torture myself."

Speaking to WTA Insider, she added: "I'd rather just surround myself with people that I really like and that truly care about me and are just really positive. I think I've been able to do that.

"If I'm not waking up every day happy to practice and happy to be around the people I'm around … this is my life. I'm not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around. I have to be happy with where I am at my life. I feel like I worked really hard - maybe not for 21 years, but for 17 years - to be number one and to win grand slams.

"Everyone around me is really good at change and adapting. You kind of have to do that to be around me. If you're not then it gets a little bit tough. Everyone around me was really supportive and I'm just really grateful I have smart people around me."

Osaka, who is accompanied by Japan Tennis Association coach Masashi Yoshikawa for the Dubai Tennis Championship, hopes to have a new trainer in place by Indian Wells in March.

"[The most important thing for me is] just to have a positive mindset," she added. "I don't want someone that's in the box saying negative stuff. That would be the worst.

"Yeah, someone that's kind of direct, not afraid to say things to my face. I'd rather someone say it directly to me than go around my back. That's one of the biggest things."

Petra Kvitova concedes her busy start to the new year has left her feeling fatigued ahead of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The Czech won the Sydney International in January before embarking on a run to the final of the Australian Open, where she was beaten in three sets by Naomi Osaka.

Her challenge at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy was ended at the quarter-final stage by Donna Vekic before the world number two had to return to her homeland for a court appearance in relation to the December 2016 knife attack which left her with career-threatening injuries.

All of which has left Kvitova feeling weary, even at this early stage of the year.

"It was a crushing time for me, to be honest," she told WTA Insider prior to the Premier 5 hard-court tournament in Dubai.

"I came home from the Australian Open because I had to get my passport with my visa to Russia and flew the next day to St Petersburg. I was really looking forward to being there again. It's a nice tournament. I came there with friends and it was fun.

"Then I flew to Monaco, then to the Czech Republic, where I had different reasons to be there. Then a few days of practice. Of course, it's not really easy to practice after an exhausting beginning of the season, which I really had. I still do feel it. 

"Physically and mentally, it's still not 100 per cent, but it's the tennis world and we are just in a circle and it's tough to do anything against it."

"I played a lot of tennis in that month [January] so I think I have a good reason to be tired," added Kvitova, who arrives in Dubai on the back of a 10-day break.

"My mentality right now is different from any other mentality in the world. I'm not feeling really fresh, to be honest. I'm not feeling empty as well. It's just the mix of everything, of all the emotions, physically and mentally it's been a lot on me right now. 

"I'm just trying to find a way out of it. That's what I'm dealing with right now. 

"Tennis is fun for me, it's a joy. Every time I'm on the court it's great, I'm really enjoying it. That's important, that I find the joy on the court. That's what matters right now."

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