Azarenka lines up Rybakina early in Dubai where top four women are entered

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka put away Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-4 and set up a second-round matchup with Elena Rybakina at the Dubai Championships on Monday.

The top four women — Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, Rybakina — are reunited for the first time since the Australian Open. All of them received first-round byes and will play on Tuesday.

No. 1-ranked Swiatek overcame Rybakina in the Doha final on Saturday. The Doha-Dubai title double was last achieved in 2007 by Justine Henin. Swiatek lost in the final last year. She starts against former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.

No. 2 Sabalenka ends a three-week layoff since winning her second straight Australian Open. She faces Donna Vekic but has never passed the Dubai quarterfinals.

No. 3 Gauff has Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy, and No. 4 Rybakina plays Azarenka. She has a 2-0 record against Azarenka.

Former champions Elena Svitolina and No. 9-seeded Jelena Ostapenko won.

Svitolina, the winner in 2017 and 2018, defeated fellow Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina 6-3, 7-6 (7).

Ostapenko defied 11 aces from Wang Xiyu of China to prevail 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 in two hours. The 2022 champion has won in Adelaide and Linz already this year.

Also in form is Karolina Pliskova, a former finalist. The Czech won in Cluj-Napoca two weeks ago and reached the Doha semifinals last week. Pliskova defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 7-5.


AP tennis:

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