Top seed Diana Shnaider eased her way into the next round even as defending champion Daria Snigur was sent packing off by Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova on the opening day of the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Monday.
Shnaider was effortless in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Natalia Szabanin, while Snigur struggled against her nerves and a steadily improving opponent before losing 6-4, 6-2 in 80 minutes.
Playing as the top seed for the very first time in her career, Shnaider was thrilled with the way she had responded against a tough opponent. “I think it was my serve that eventually made the difference. I just kept telling myself that I needed to get the serve right, and that went on to help my confidence,” Shnaider said.
“I think I have done well to get my confidence back while also making the transition from clay to hard courts. I’ve got to just stay focused and the game will come. I am a bit tired now, but happy that I could win against a tough opponent,” she added.
The second highlight of the day was the fall of defending champion Snigur on Court No. 2. The 20-year-old Ukrainian started strong with a couple of early breaks to push clear 3-0 in the first set. But, Sramkova just held her nerves and slowly made her way back into the match with breaks in the fourth and eighth to draw level.
After this, it looked like one-way traffic with the 20-year-old Snigur struggling to get a measure of her opponent from Slovakia.
“She played really fast in those early games. But, I just hung in there trying to see how long I could push to keep those rallies long. She’s a very good player and winning against her gives me a lot of confidence looking ahead,” Sramkova admitted.
The 26-year-old has struggled with a broken left toe that kept her away from tennis for the past four months. So the win couldn’t have come at a better time while making a re-entry on the competition trail. “I do play with a certain amount of pain on my left foot, but then that’s the nature of our sport. Now that I’ve achieved this big win, I need to stay grounded and see how deep I can go into the draw over the next few days,” Sramkova disclosed.
Round One matches will continue with play starting at 10.30 am at the Habtoor Grand Resort courts.