The Middle East swing continues on the WTA Tour at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships while there was a group of players opted to join the field at the indoor tournament at the Hungarian Ladies Open. The packed draw in Dubai featured countless high-quality affairs while the fast indoor courts in Hungary also brought about several thrillers.
Last Week's Champions
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Being the defending champion in Dubai, Elina Svitolina replicated her success and once again triumphed in the city of gold, extending her winning streak at the tournament to nine matches. The path to her 11th career title wasn't the easiest of all, first getting past a tricky lucky-loser in Wang Qiang, needing three sets to do so. She then surprisingly eased past the big-hitting Naomi Osaka before grabbing a confidence-boosting win over world number nine Angelique Kerber, triumphing with a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 scoreline. Her second Dubai title was sealed with a commanding 6-4, 6-0 blowout over a fatigued Daria Kasatkina, who had an incredible run of her own.
Kasatkina's path to the title was a scenic one -- having saved five match points in total. Her draw was incredibly tough, but the Russian overcame the odds to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska, Johanna Konta, Elena Vesnina, and Garbine Muguruza in succession. She saved two match points against the Brit while recovering from the brink against the third-ranked Spaniard as well.
Hungarian Ladies Open
In a surprise turn of events, the unseeded Alison Van Uytvanck stunned the crowd to take home her second WTA crown with a terrific victory over the seemingly-unstoppable top-seed Dominika Cibulkova. Looking to regain her form, the Slovakian and former top-five player looked dominant all week and lost not more than three games in any sets she played entering the final. However, Van Uytvanck was even better, triumphing 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the marathon and thrilling final.
Van Uytvanck eased past an ailing Oceane Dodin in the opening round before shocking fifth seed Mihaela Buzarnescu with a stunning 6-1, 6-0 scoreline. Her amazing run continued with a 6-2, 6-4 win over second seed Zhang Shuai and having lost just 18 games in the process, the Belgian found herself in her second WTA final. She maintained her perfect record there, upsetting Cibulkova to prevail.
Kasatkina's success meant that for the first time in her career, she will break into the top-20. It has been an amazing run, and with barely anything to defend in March, her ranking could improve even further.
Caroline Wozniacki's failure to defend her finalist points from 2017 meant that Simona Halep will return to the top spot despite being inactive for the week. Hence, the Romanian will enter Indian Wells and Miami as the top seed.
Furthermore, Van Uytvanck's outrageously-impressive run in Budapest led to a huge leap in the rankings, rising 30 places to re-enter the top-50 for the first time since 2015.
Timea Babos' shock loss in front of her home crowd against Mona Barthel in the second round meant that a drop in the rankings ensued for the Hungarian. She fell eight places to 43, while Wang Qiang also dropped out of the top-50 due to her inability to defend her quarterfinal points in Dubai.
Lauren Davis, just weeks after pushing eventual finalist Halep to the brink at the Australian Open, now finds herself outside the top-100 after not participating in both Dubai or Doha, and she reached the quarterfinals of both tournaments in 2017.
Road to Singapore
Svitolina now finds herself in a secured fourth position in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard, being more than 600 points ahead of the eighth-ranked player, Karolina Pliskova. There weren't many movements, but Daria Kasatkina, Dominika Cibulkova, and Alison Van Uytvanck all had big leaps. The Russian now finds herself ranked 11th, while Cibulkova rose 25 spots to move inside the top-25 and Van Uytvanck had a rise of 229 points with an addition of 280 points added to her ranking.
This Week's Tournaments
The tour now slowly transits to the North American Hard Court swing as the only tournament scheduled this week is the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, where the top seeds featured are Sloane Stephens and Kristina Mladenovic. No top-10 players are in action as they are busy in preparation for the two Premier Mandatory events coming up in March -- the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open.