Dubai R2: (1) Simona Halep vs Ana Ivanovic
The pick of the second round clashes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday sees top seed and defending champion Simona Halep begin her title defense against Ana Ivanovic. Both Halep and Ivanovic have made slow starts to the season but both have shown signs of a resurgence in recent times, this is a critical clash for both ladies and promises to be a highly competitive affair.
Simona Halep had a shocking Australian summer highlighted by a first round loss in Melbourne to Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang. Halep indicated after the tournament that she would need surgery on her nose but decided that she was feeling well enough to postpone the surgery and play in Romania’s Fed Cup tie with the Czech Republic. Simona played decent tennis in that Fed Cup tie, showing signs of improvement when she won a critical rubber against Petra Kvitova. Simona will be reasonably confident heading into this event despite the slow start to the season given her title run at the event last year where she played great.
Ana Ivanovic also had a shocking Australian summer but is showing real signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks. Ivanovic had a decent week in St. Petersburg where she made the semi-finals but it was in her first round match in Dubai where Ivanovic showed that she is back on the right track. Ivanovic produced her best performance of the season thus far to record a comprehensive 6-1 6-0 victory over a wayward Daria Gavrilova in less than an hour of play. That result will give Ivanovic a much needed confidence boost and she will feel good heading into her second round clash with Halep given her positive record over the Romanian.
Ana Ivanovic holds a 3-2 head-to-head record over Simona Halep. The Serb won the most recent clash between the pair, a hard-fought 7-6 3-6 6-3 win at the WTA Final in Singapore back in 2014. Despite the head-to-head record and Ivanovic’s big first round win, I’m going to side with Halep here. Simona is generally a far most solid and consistent player and should be strong enough from the baseline to deal with Ivanovic. It’s also hard to know how good Ivanovic really is playing at the moment given Gavrilova was simply terrible yesterday. This is an important match for both and it is likely to be a really close one.