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Snigur sweeps aside Kucova to win Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge title

Former junior Wimbledon champion Daria Snigur was second time lucky as she swept aside Kristina Kucova 6-3, 6-0 in under an hour to become the singles champion at the 24th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Saturday.

A losing finalist at this tournament in 2019, the 19-year-old Snigur was on song from the start giving her opponent from Slovakia very little time to settle in.

After an early exchange of breaks, Snigur got a second break in the fifth and then held for 4-2. A third break in the ninth game with some effortless shot-making to boot saw the focused Ukrainian run away with the set 6-3 in just 35 minutes.

Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, President of UAE Tennis Federation, gave away the trophies to the winners along with Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman of Habtoor Group.

“I was nervous at the start as that loss of 2019 was popping up in my mind. Then surprisingly I found that Kristina too wasn’t playing easy, and that’s when I got my confidence and I took my chances and went for my shots,” Snigur said later.

If the first set was a contest, then the second was totally lop-sided as the teenager registered breaks in the second, fourth and sixth to complete her domination in a mere 54 minutes.

As soon as Kucova had sent a forehand long, Snigur fell to the ground and threw her hands in the air celebrating her triumph. “For me this win is so huge. Dubai is a place I have considered my home as most of the good things have happened to me right here. Next year I want to return here for the Dubai Open and see where I stand among the bigger players,” Snigur related.

On the junior tour, Snigur has a career-high ranking of No.2 that was achieved at the end of October 2019 after reaching the final of the ITF Junior Finals. Earlier in July the same year, she became the second Ukrainian junior champion at Wimbledon after Kateryna Bondarenko.

The Ukrainian will stay back in Dubai for another two days before leaving for Kiev to continue with her pre-season build-up before the 2022 Australian Open.

Kucova had no answers to Snigur’s guile on court. “It was a tough game as she hits so deep and low. She loves to dominate from the other side, and with her quick movement on court things can get even more difficult,” Kucova admitted.

“I tried, but it wasn’t good enough for me to match her game today,” added the 2007 junior US Open champion.
 
Top seeds Danilina and Kuzmova clinch doubles crown

 
Anna Danilina and Viktoria Kuzmova lived up to their top billing as the first-seeded pair fought from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 10-2 against Angelina Gabueva and Anastasia Zakharova to claim the doubles crown.

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Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor and Nasser Al Mazroei with the winners of the doubles competition.

Struggling to find their rhythm at the onset, Danilina and Kuzmova did well to register a single break in the second game of the second set to draw level.

In the deciding super tie-breaker, the Kazkh and Slovak pair raced to a 7-0 lead to then wrap things up 10-2 for their first first doubles title together as a pairing.

“I think we were both quite focused on playing our best tennis out there despite losing that first set,” Kuzmova said.

“The idea was to continue doing all the right things while not paying too much attention to the negatives. We kept telling each other that we needed to continue our focus and we would be able to clean up our game. And that’s exactly what happened with patience,” added the 23-year-old whose best was a singles runner-up spot here in 2018.

Kuzmova will next head home before heading for the Czech Republic for one more tournament prior to taking a break during Christmas.

“The idea is to get the points so that I can make the qualifiers at the Australian Open as a seed,” Kuzmova related.

“I am quite pleased with the way my game has been shaping up. The idea now is to stay focused and keep this rhythm going,” she added.

On the other hand, this tournament was the last one this year for the 26-year-old Moscow-born Danilina, who plans to stay on in Dubai and start her pre-season.

“There have been a few things that I have done well here this week, and now it will be time to take a short break to rest and then start preparing for the next year,” Danilina said.

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