Dubai Tennis: Ivanovic sets up clash with champion Halep

Ana Ivanovic during her win over Daria Gavrilova at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Feb 16 2016. (Supplied)

Ana Ivanovic on Tuesday followed up her recent confidence-boosting run to the St. Petersburg semi-finals by taking just 53 minutes to overwhelm Daria Gavrilova 6-1 6-0 and reach the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

That has set up a mouth-watering clash with top seed and defending champion Simona Halep.

“I expected a very tough match because of the battle we had in Rome on clay,” said Ivanovic.

“I really tried to step it up today and be aggressive. Especially here in desert I feel that the ball sometimes flies little bit through the air quicker, so I tried to use that in my advantage. So very pleased overall.

“I know I have done the work, and now it's just about executing and also enjoying competition. Next match is going to be a tough one for me. Simona is a very tough, consistent player. She strikes the ball well, she moves well, so it's going to be a good challenge.”

Belinda Bencic suffered a losing start a day after reaching the WTA top 10 for the first time as the teenager fell 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to veteran Jelena Jankovic.

Swiss Bencic, 18, was playing for the first time as a member of the elite after achieving the number nine ranking with last weekend's St Petersburg final.

But former number one Jankovic proved to be a tough customer, who levelled at a set each following an undisclosed change of tactics and left Bencic momentarily sobbing on her chair.

Jankovic will face German Andrea Petkovic in the second round. The Serb, who was runner-up 11 years ago in her Dubai debut, has also played four semi-finals.

The veteran used years of experience to start turning the tables in the second set, with Bencic failing to profit from a lead of a set and a break.

With the Swiss serving to stay in the set while trailing 5-6, Jankovic failed on five set points before finally squaring the contest at a set each as Bencic drove a backhand wide.

The final set produced more frustration for Bencic, forced to save multiple break points in two service games and finally going down to defeat as she was broken in the last game after more than two and a half hours.

"I fought on every point, she was playing well," said Jankovic, who turns 31 at the end of the month.

"I changed strategy after the first set, it was that and my fighting spirit which got me through at the end. I'm so glad I was able to win."

Ivanovic rout

Fellow Serb Ana Ivanovic followed up last week's semi-final in Russia with a dynamic start as the former world number one crushed Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-0.

The first-round rout required just 53 minutes as she showed no mercy to her Russian-born opponent, who thrilled her new home audience in Melbourne by reaching the Australian Open fourth round.

Ivanovic reached the final four in St Petersburg at the weekend, losing to US Open finalist Roberta Vinci.

"Last week I played some great tennis. Obviously it's a little bit tough, different conditions here completely," Ivanovic said. "I had only one practice here. But still I'm very happy.

"I know I've done the work, and now it's just about executing and also enjoying the competition."

Ivanovic, a three-time Dubai quarter-finalist, broke six times as Gavrilova committed 22 unforced errors. The challenger was playing the event for the first time after losing in qualifying three years ago.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina won a battle with Slovak Jana Cepelova, posting a 6-3, 6-1 result to next take on second seed and 2015 semi-finalist Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

"It was a good start but then I struggled a little bit to finish the set. But I'm really happy that a good finish with two sets and only gave up four games. It was a good start."

Svitolina, now taking advice from former number one Justine Henin in an arrangement put into place recently, won a massive 17-minute game to earn a 4-1 lead in the second set on the way to her sweep.

The 21-year-old said having another voice in her tennis can only be a huge help.

"It's great to have Justine in my team, I worked with her in offseason for a little bit, and now she's gonna join us for some tournaments.

"I'm looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to hard work. Of course there have been some small changes, but we are trying to do something new what can refresh my game. That's it."

Czech Barbora Strycova beat qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3. Sara Errani defeated Zheng Shuai of China 7-5, 6-3.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

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