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|18 February, 2019

Qualifiers rule the roost; Wozniakci pulls out of DDF Championships

Alison Riske stuns Julia Goerges in straight sets

Elise Mertens came crashing down to earth as the Belgian 16th seed lost a three set battle to Chinese qualifier Lin Zhu in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday.

On Saturday, the 23-year-old Mertens was on cloud nine following her victory in the Doha final over world number three Simona Halep.

But 48 hours later, the Belgian found the Chinese qualifier too hot to handle despite winning the first set.

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The 25-year-old Zhu staged a superb fightback to win the dramatic three-setter 5-7 6-4 7-5.

On what was a memorable day of qualifiers, Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, lost in straight sets (6-4 6-0) to American Jennifer Brady. But the biggest disappointment of the second day of the tournament was the withdrawal of Caroline Wozniacki.

The 2011 Dubai champion failed to recover from a viral illness and decided to pull out of the tournament just before her first match against Swiss Lucky Loser Stefanie Voegele.
"It hurts to be honest. I prepared, I was hoping to be ready to play today. But I just wasn't," the 2018 Australian Open champion said.

"I have to be fair to myself, as well. If I can't even play at a reasonable level, there's no reason for me to go out there and just play one set. I want to go out there and I want to win. Every time I play a match, I think I can beat the opponent, I think I can win the tournament. I don't feel like that right now."

But Zhu, on the other hand, couldn't hide her joy after her stirring three-set win over Mertens. "She's a competitor. She always fights until the end of match. I am really happy that I'm the winner today," she said. "And now I think I finally break the top 100. It means a lot for me. I have been working on this goal for a few years now. I have finally done it. I'm so happy right now. No word can describe how happy I am."

Meanwhile, Julia Goerges, the 13th seed who was a runner in Dubai in 2012, lost in straight sets (6-4 7-5) to American Alison Riske who will take on Alize Cornet of France in the second round. Fifteenth seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia also lost her first round match to Shuai Zheng of China (7-6 6-3).

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