Seed No.1 Angelique Kerber avenged her defeat to Monica Puig in the Rio Olympics final by eliminating the Puerto Rican in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, while fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska was forced to leave the tournament at the hands of 17-year-old Catherine Bellis, who recorded her first Top 10 victory.
If Kerber wins the Dubai event, she’ll reclaim the WTA No.1 ranking and the 6-2 6-3 win over Puig got her closer to that feat. The German saved all five break points she faced in the third-round match, including in the last game of the first set when she trailed 0-40. Approaching the end of the second set, Kerber recovered from 15-40 to go ahead 5-3 and broke Puig’s serve in the following game to win the encounter.
The fact that she’s only three matches away from climbing back to the top position in the rankings is not putting pressure on Kerber:
I’m taking things match by match. I’m just trying to focus on playing good tennis and enjoying this week.
Also through to the quarterfinals is American CiCi Bellis, the youngest player in the Dubai draw and the youngest member of the Top 100, who recorded the biggest win of her career by upsetting Radwanska 6-4 2-6 6-2. Just how young world No.70 Bellis is shows this photo from 2011, which I had already shared in my article “Tennis beginnings of CiCi Bellis” in the Little Tennis Stars series.
So far, Bellis’ biggest successes all came in 2016: the Hawaii Open title, the Bank of the West Classic quarterfinals and the third round of the US Open, although we shouldn’t forget that as a 15-year-old she attracted attention to herself at the 2014 US Open by stunning 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round. This week’s progress will see CiCi enter the Top 60 for the first time, while if she beats tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki and makes the semis, she could even crack the Top 50.
Quarterfinal pairs at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are the following: Angelique Kerber  vs. Ana Konjuh, Elina Svitolina  vs. Lauren Davis, Caroline Wozniacki  vs. Catherine Bellis, and Anastasija Sevastova vs. Qiang Wang.