The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships served up a deluge of drama and intrigue on Tuesday as a host of seeded players endured mixed fortunes on a sun-drenched day at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
At the top of the order, fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, the World No.9, progressed to the Round of 16 following a marathon 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over big-hitting American Maxime Cressy on Centre Court.
In a titanic first set that swelled to 90 lung-busting minutes, Auger-Aliassime squandered three sets points before expertly challenging an out call when up 6-4 in the tiebreak.
As Hawkeye broadcast a replay on to the in-stadium screens, showing Auger-Aliassime’s towering backhand lob – which a scrambling Cressy reached, but failed to play back into court – had indeed clipped the line, the Canadian punched the air in delight.
Auger-Aliassime’s joy was short-lived, however, as Cressy roared back to take the second set 6-3. Levelling the match proved to be Cressy’s peak though, with Auger-Aliassime finding an extra gear to run out victor.
“He’s difficult to play because you never face opponents like him – he is quite unique,” said Auger-Aliassime, who will face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in the last 16.
On Court 1, sixth seed Karan Khachanov fell at the first hurdle, losing 7-6, 6-2 to World No.33 Botic van de Zandschulp.
The Dutchman will face Mikael Ymer in the Round of 16 after the Swede defeated Italy’s Francesco Passaro 6-2, 6-3.
Eighth seed Borna Coric, meanwhile, is through after British opponent Daniel Evans was forced to withdraw from their Round of 32 match due to an ankle injury with the scores tied 2-2 in the opening set.
Elsewhere, the ATP 500 tournament lost its only Emirati player on Tuesday as Abdulrahman Al Janahi exited the Doubles competition alongside playing partner Kareem Al Allaf of the USA.
Despite friends and family cheering them on, the pair lost 6-1, 6-3 to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Tomislav Brkic and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar on Court 2.
“In the second set it got a bit close,” said Al Janahi, who was thrilled with his fourth ATP experience in Dubai.
“We were toe-to-toe with them; it was one point here, one point there. One of the nice things when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships come around every year is that we’re in the tournament environment. Whether we’re hitting partners, or getting wild cards into the tournaments, we get to interact with the players a lot, and you see how different the level is, the level of focus it takes, the commitment.”
In another epic Round of 16 Doubles match on Court 2, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, the tournament’s top seeds, progressed after a narrow 7-5, 4-6, 10-7 win over India’s Rohan Bopanna and Australia’s Matthew Ebden.
The Croatian duo will play Brkic and Escobar in the quarterfinals.
On Court 3, Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell, the World No.92, continued his impressive run with a 7-5, 6-4 win over World No.54 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.
O’Connell’s reward is a Round of 16 clash with seventh seed Alexander Zverev.