Like every year, the annual WTA stop in Africa came with the Grand Prix SAR, this time in Rabat where the tournament has moved after three years in the hot Marrakech. Many WTA stars are competing in the event including Timea Bacsinszky and Ekaterina Makarova who want to test themselves ahead of the clay court season. The first day action consisted of the final qualifying rounds and some top seeds giving their first round matches. In fact, we had some early upsets in a day whose the results are worth tracking.
Number three seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova leaves Rabat early, continuing her recent slump
Number three seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova surrendered to a straightforward and devastating defeat to Kiki Bertens in the morning. Schmiedlova's level was for another tournament really bad producing many short shots, playing a lot behind the baseline and commiting a lot of errors. From the other side, Bertens played an amazing match, indicative of the score line 6-0, 6-1. This is Schmiedlova's seventh straight loss and her ninth if we do not count Fed Cup. Despite ending 2015 on a high note, 2016 has not gone at all according to plan for the young Slovak whose level has dropped a lot. For Bertens this has been a good season so far and significantly she has impressed in the Fed Cup, having not lost a match in both of her World Group ties against Russia and France.
Number two seed Ekaterina Makarova edges Alexandra Dulgheru in her opener
Makarova is on her way back from an injury that has been troubling her for the past months, finding some form after making the Quarterfnals in Miami. This time she came up against Alexandra Dulgheru, an opponent that has troubled her in the past. However, she managed to get a hard-fought 6-4, 6-2 win, holding her grip in a match that had many breaks of serve and Dulgheru was barely making errors. This was Makarova's first win over the Romanian in their third encounter. Clay is not Makarova's favorite surface but she is definitely trying her best the latest years, including a second week appearance in the French Open last year. As the second seed, she can be considered as a favorite for the tournament in her attempt to win her first clay court title after reaching two finals in the past.
Another significant result was Teliana Pereira's 6-3, 6-1 win over sixth seed Annika Beck. Pereira loves the clay courts, but this year had not proven it on court before today. Number five seed Timea Babos needed three sets to seal the win against Polona Hercog, while Pauline Parmentier and Johanna Larsson battled past Kirsten Flipkens and Donna Vekic respectively in straights.
The final matches of qualifying took place today with Aleksandra Krunic, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Marina Erakovic and Kaia Kanepi taking the four tickets to the main draw. We have to point out the presence of Kaia Kanepi, former top 20 player, who has been battling with many injuries later and has not been able to play many tournaments. Kanepi now drew Kateryna Kozlova, Soler-Espinosa drew Lesia Tsurenko, Krunic drew Anastasia Sevastova and Erakovic drew Andrea Mitu. Also there were three lucky losers due to Cagla Buyucackay, Laura Siegemund and Karin Knapp's withdrawals. Those are Anastasia Rodionova, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Richel Hogenkamp.
Today only the centre court wased for the ones interested in the coverage.