Top seed Simona Halep saved a match point in a gripping battle with Ons Jabeur before sealing her place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep was on the brink of a surprise defeat to the in-form world number 45, but hung in there to win a thriller 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion and Jabeur were given great backing from passionate Romanian and Tunisian supporters in a pulsating contest that swung one way and the other.

Halep appeared destined to complete the turnaround with ease when she led 3-0 in the final set, but the tenacious Jabeur was relishing the battle and showed great spirit to take the upper hand at 6-5.

The unseeded Jabeur was broken to love when serving for the match, though, and a double-fault gifted 2015 champion Halep a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, yet there was more drama to come.

Jabeur fended off three match points to earn one of her own, but Halep showed her grit to win the next two points before her gutsy opponent drilled a forehand long to end a tense two-hour contest.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after the seventh seed defeated Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza advanced with a hard-fought Veronika Kudermetova, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 two days after knocking out the returning Kim Clijsters.

Elena Rybakina, a three-time finalist this year, got the better of Katerina Siniakova for the second successive week, a 6-3, 6-3 victory setting up a meeting with Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed Pliskova lost just three games in emphatic defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, while Petra Martic, Jennifer Brady and Anett Kontaveit were also victorious.

Sofia Kenin lost her first WTA Tour match since winning the Australian Open triumph to crash out of the Dubai Tennis Championships in the first round.

Kenin claimed her maiden grand slam title in Melbourne and then helped the United States to a place in the Fed Cup Finals with a 3-2 win over Latvia.

However, despite winning a tight opening set on Tuesday, she was defeated 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 6-3 by St Petersburg Ladies Trophy runner-up Elena Rybakina, whose reward is a second-round tie against Katerina Siniakova, who overcame Karolina Muchova 6-4 4-6 6-0.

"I didn't get nervous at all because I knew it was going to be tough," Rybakina, who was playing her sixth match in eight days, said.

"Actually, I prepared myself like it's a good practice. I didn't expect to win. I tried to do my best, but I was not nervous. I didn't think about her winning the Australian Open because I know that now anyone can beat anyone."

Kenin's defeat was not the only shock, however, with Belinda Bencic's defence of her title proving to be short-lived as she let a brilliant start slip in a remarkable loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

World number four Bencic was in complete control as she took the first 19 points but was unable to prevent Pavlyuchenkova building momentum in an extraordinary turnaround.

After losing seven of the first eight games, the Russian won 12 of the final 13 to cap a brilliant 1-6 6-1 6-1 triumph – her 15th win against top-five opposition and her second of 2020.

Bencic's capitulation followed on from another surprise result, with Jennifer Brady claiming a 6-2 6-1 victory over Elina Svitolina.

Brady – who stunned world number one Ash Barty in Brisbane last month – needed just an hour to send the world number six, who won in Dubai in 2017 and 2018, packing.

Kristina Mladenovic cruised past Aliaksandra Sasnovich in straight sets to tee up a tie with second seed Karolina Pliskova.

Veronika Kudermetova got the better of Dayana Yastremska, while Petra Martic dispatched Hsieh Su-wei and Aryna Sabalenka saw off Maria Sakkari 6-2 4-6 6-1.

Kim Clijsters took solace in feeling like she had periods of dominance against Garbine Muguruza, who ensured the four-time major champion's comeback began with a defeat.

Making her first appearance on the WTA Tour since the 2012 US Open, former world number one Clijsters fell to a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) defeat against Australian Open finalist Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The 36-year-old dropped her first two service games in the second set but managed to get things back on serve and force a tie-break, something she was proud of despite her early exit.

Clijsters said: "I felt obviously the second set was a big difference compared to the first set. My timing in the first set, my footing, just kept looking for it.

"I felt a few times it was there, then it would be off a few points. At times I felt like I was close. I was seeing the ball clear. Just started reading her game better, as well, getting used to her pace a little bit.

"Yeah, second set I felt I was really in the match. I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

"I think that's a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set, with the type of tennis I played, it's something that is the positive about this match. I'll take that with me for the next matches.

"I had a good feeling out there. I do feel a little bit of, I'm not going to say relief, but a feeling that the pace I can handle."

Muguruza accepted she went into the match completely unsure of what to expect, with Clijsters representing something of an unknown quantity, though she is now anticipating the Belgian to cause problems for plenty of players.

"I think she played very well, especially in the second set at the end," Muguruza said. "It was very tight.

"I think this is just special because I didn't know how [Clijsters was] going to play. I know she can play incredible - she did at some point play [at an] incredible level. I haven't seen her play in so long, so it's like, 'Okay, what's going to happen?'

"I'm sure she's going to get better and better, for sure, [and] give us a lot of trouble."

Clijsters' fellow Belgian Elise Mertens was in action earlier in the day and had significantly fewer issues, cruising past Wang Qiang in straight sets.

Mertens needed a little over an hour to secure her progression, ultimately running out a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victor – winning the second set in just 25 minutes.

World number 18 Alison Riske suffered a shock 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 defeat at the hands of Ons Jabeur, who set up a second-round clash with Simona Halep.

The Tunisian, who is ranked 45th in the world, eventually came out on top and owed much to her ability to hit a winner, outscoring Riske 28 to 11 in that metric as she claimed a seventh career win over a top-20 opponent.

Barbora Strycova came through a lengthy encounter with 18-year-old Amanda Animisova, beating the American 6-3 (7-3) 2-6 6-4 over two hours and 33 minutes, taking advantage of her opponent's proneness to errors.

Marketa Vondrousova was the highest-ranked player in action on Tuesday, and she dispatched Anastasija Sevastova with relative ease, winning 6-3 6-2.

Kim Clijsters was denied a dream return to the WTA Tour as she was beaten in straight sets by Garbine Muguruza at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Muguruza, runner-up at the recent Australian Open, triumphed 6-2 7-6 (8-6) in one hour and 37 minutes on Monday.

Playing her first match since losing to Laura Robson in the second round of the US Open in August 2012, the Belgian was rusty at times as she racked up 10 double faults and gave up 15 break points.

However, Clijsters' fight and impressive groundstrokes in the second set would have given her plenty of hope for the months ahead.

Clijsters' opponent changed when Kiki Bertens withdrew from the event after winning in St Petersburg, but in-form Muguruza represented a similarly daunting first task in her comeback contest.

The 36-year-old was broken in a 10-point opening game and dropped serve again later in the first set.

She forced her first break points as Muguruza served for the opener at 5-2 but could not convert three opportunities as the Spaniard held.

A slow start also impacted four-time major champion Clijsters in the second set, as Muguruza claimed an immediate break and then struck once more in her opponent's next service game to move 3-0 up.

Clijsters showed grit and broke Muguruza for the first time in game four and later superbly claimed a second break to level matters, eventually forcing a tie-break.

She won the first two points of the breaker only for her younger rival to go on a streak of four that included a superb cross-court forehand winner.

At 6-5 in front, Muguruza hit a forehand long on her opening match point but she ultimately sealed victory with her next opportunity thanks to an unreturned serve

Kiki Bertens outclassed Elena Rybakina to retain her St Petersburg Ladies' Trophy title and Magda Linette won the Thailand Open on Sunday.

Bertens became the first player to win back-to-back titles in St Petersburg, easing to a 6-1 6-3 victory over eighth seed Rybakina.

World number eight Bertens, who was due to face the returning Kim Clijsters in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships before withdrawing this weekend, was in tears after losing just one set this week to claim a 10th WTA title.

She saved all five break points she faced, securing a first title this year.

"I never expect any match to be easy. It didn't feel easy, of course, even though the scoreline was. At the end, I felt a little bit nervous, but I was just happy to close it out," second seed Bertens said. 

"I just tried to approach every point the same, no matter what the score is. Sometimes, on a break point, you go for a little more on serve, and that's what I did today."

Linette sealed the second WTA Tour title of her career with a 6-3 6-2 defeat of qualifier Leonie Kung in Hua Hin.

Teenager Kung, playing in the main draw of an event at this level for only the second time, failed to break Linette's serve and was made to pay for being unable to hold on three occasions.

Kim Clijsters revealed she could not ignore the recurring temptation to come out of retirement as she prepares to make her WTA Tour comeback against Garbine Muguruza.

The former world number one will come up against Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday, seven and a half years after her last professional match.

Clijsters, who will face Muguruza rather than Kiki Bertens after the world number eight withdrew from the tournament, had to delay her return due to a knee injury.

The 36-year-old four-time grand slam singles champion raised eyebrows last September when announcing she would play at the highest level again.

Clijsters had been thinking of resuming her career for some time and encouraging words from her husband were also a factor in making the bold move to get back on court.

"It was a feeling that I had inside, a feeling that I had inside for a little while," said the Belgian, who has also won two major doubles titles.

"Once in a while that feeling would go away when I was home with the kids. A couple times it would come back. It got stronger and stronger."

She added: "I talked to my husband. He was like, 'Stop worrying about why and ask yourself: Why not?'.

"He made a very good point. I was like, 'There is no 'why not'. Why wouldn't I do it?"

Muguruza will be playing for the first time since her Australian Open final defeat to Sofia Kenin.

Kiki Bertens will defend her St Petersburg Ladies' Trophy title on Sunday after defeating Russian number one Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1 4-6 6-1.

World number eight Bertens, who has been confirmed as Kim Clijsters' first opponent in next week's Dubai Tennis Championships, required a decider on Saturday to secure a third successive win over a Russian opponent.

But despite relinquishing control in the second set, Bertens did not let up in the third as she ultimately cruised through to reach her first singles final since October.

Eighth seed Elena Rybakina will be Bertens' opponent in the final, with the 20-year-old advancing to the biggest final of her career so far with a 3-6 7-5 6-1 defeat of Maria Sakkari.

Elsewhere, in the Thailand Open, teenager Leonie Kung got the better of Nao Hibino to make the final in what is just her second WTA Tour main draw event.

The 19-year-old had to come from a break down in the decider on Saturday but ultimately triumphed 7-5 4-6 6-3.

Kung will face world number 42 Magda Linette in the final, with the Pole having overcome Patricia Maria Tig in her semi-final.

Kim Clijsters will begin her WTA Tour comeback against world number eight Kiki Bertens at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The first-round clash will be the four-time major champion's first professional match in seven and a half years, having retired after the 2012 US Open.

Clijsters, a mother of three, revealed her shock decision to return to tennis last September but a knee injury forced her to sit out the start of the season.

The 36-year-old, a former world number one, was granted a wildcard for the singles tournament in Dubai, which begins on Monday.

Kiki Bertens' bid to retain her St Petersburg Ladies Trophy title remains alive but Petra Kvitova's run in Russia came to an end as she pulled out due to illness.

World number eight Bertens defeated teenage qualifier Anastasia Potapova 6-4 7-6 (7-3) having staved off three set points in a second set in which she was 5-2 down.

Bertens will face Ekaterina Alexandrova next after she was handed a walkover when third seed Kvitova withdrew.

Top seed Belinda Bencic was ousted by Maria Sakkari in three sets, with Elena Rybakina beating Oceane Dodin in the other quarter-final.

At the Thailand Open, world number four Elina Svitolina suffered a surprise straight-sets loss to Nao Hibino, who was joined in the semi-finals by Magda Linette, Patricia Maria Tig and Leonie Kung.

Kiki Bertens wasted little time in getting her St Petersburg Ladies Trophy defence up and running with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Veronika Kudermetova.

The home hope found herself overmatched against the second seed from the off as Bertens surged into a 4-0 lead before a third break sealed the first set.

A break to cut the gap to 3-2 in the second proved a false dawn for Kudermetova, who failed to win another game after that as she was beaten in under an hour.

Another Russian, qualifier Anastasia Potapova, is up next for Bertens.

Third seed Petra Kvitova found the going somewhat tougher before prevailing 7-6 (7-1) 1-6 6-2 against Alison van Uytvanck in two hours and 16 minutes.

"Definitely, it was a tough one," Kvitova said, following a match featuring a remarkable 33 break-point opportunities.

"I’ve never played Alison before, and she'd already played one match on the surface, and for me it was the first one, so that's always a bit challenging."

Kvitova must now take on the in-form Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The Russian claimed her ninth straight win indoors as she beat seventh seed Donna Vekic 6-1 7-5, while Maria Sakkari was also a straight-sets winner over Alize Cornet.

At the Thailand Open, top seed Elina Svitolina made short work of Storm Sanders, blowing away the qualifier 6-1 6-2 in 57 minutes.

Magda Linette was a 7-5 6-1 winner against the experienced Peng Shuai in blustery conditions and has further Chinese opposition coming up after Wang Xiya defeated Barbara Haas 6-3 6-4.

Romania's Patricia Maria Tig also reached the quarter-finals in straight sets at the expense of sixth seed Yafan Wang.

Belinda Bencic started her bid for glory at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy with a battling win over home hope Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Johanna Konta suffered elimination.

Top seed Bencic came out on top 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 against the Russian veteran in one hour and 44 minutes to move into the quarter-finals.

The world number five, runner-up at this event in 2016, struggled for momentum in a first set where she was broken three times, but Kuznetsova could not serve out the opener at 6-5.

Bencic then claimed the tie-break after racing to win the first five points and tightened things up in the second set, where one solitary break in the seventh game proved decisive.

There was an upset on Wednesday as fourth seed Konta was dumped out by French qualifier Oceane Dodin, who triumphed 6-3 6-4.

Dodin controlled the encounter with her serve, with Konta unable to break in the match and only forcing two opportunities to do so as the Briton fell to her third consecutive first-round loss in 2020.

"I don't have any pressure right now," said world number 159 Dodin, who has struggled with health issues including vertigo during the past two years.

"I'll give it my best and we'll see what happens."

Alize Cornet and Anastasia Potapova also progressed, with Fiona Ferro to play Elena Rybakina in the last contest of the day.

Top seed Elina Svitolina made a comfortable start to her campaign at the Thailand Open, defeating Bibiane Schoofs 6-2 6-4 in 79 minutes.

Wang Qiang, having already played her first-round match, defeated Katarzyna Kawa 6-3 6-4 to move into the quarter-finals, where she will meet Leonie Kung, who was a 6-3 6-1 winner over seventh seed Zhu Lin.

Zhu was the only seed to fall as Zheng Saisai and Nao Hibino also moved into the last eight, while Magda Linette won her first-round contest against Kateryna Bondarenko in straight sets to mark her 28th birthday in style.

Bianca Andreescu has further delayed her comeback after withdrawing from the Dubai Tennis Championships, where Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza has been handed a wild card.

US Open champion Andreescu suffered a knee injury at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen last October during a match against Karolina Pliskova and has since pulled out of the Auckland Classic and Australian Open in 2020.

She had hoped to represent Canada in their Fed Cup qualifying tie in Switzerland last week but ended up not playing there and has now revealed the WTA Premier event in Dubai will also come too soon for her.

"I'm very sad to announce that I won't be able to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week," Andreescu said on Wednesday.

"I'm not at 100 per cent yet and, following my team and doctor's recommendation, I don't want to take any risk to re-injure my knee. 

"Each day I get closer to being back to the court competing, but Dubai is just too soon. Hope I can come and play in Dubai next year."

Muguruza will join the field, though, after landing a wild card for the tournament, which begins next Monday and will also feature the returning Kim Clijsters.

"Garbine has been ranked as high as number one in the world and is clearly once again playing at the very top of her game," said tournament director Salah Tahlak. 

"In the 20th year of the WTA event in Dubai, we can all look forward to seeing if she can become our 14th ladies' champion in what is certain to be a fascinating week."

Simona Halep will be the top seed, with Pliskova and Elina Svitolina involved along with defending champion Belinda Bencic and Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

Marketa Vondrousova surrendered a one-set lead as she fell to a first-round defeat against Ajla Tomljanovic at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy, while Petra Martic crashed out of the Thailand Open.

Last year's French Open runner-up, Vondrousova made an encouraging start to her injury comeback in 2020 with a quarter-final run in Adelaide but she has now suffered consecutive opening-round exits following her early loss at the Australian Open. 

Tomljanovic battled back to win 3-6 6-3 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes to eliminate the fifth seed at the WTA Premier event in Russia.

Alison Van Uytvanck booked a last-16 clash with third seed Petra Kvitova by recording an impressive 6-4 6-1 win over Kristina Mladenovic, a former winner in St Petersburg.

Donna Vekic – beaten in the final in 2019 - is safely through, however, after beating Kristie Ahn by the same scoreline.

Home fans were delighted as Russian duo Svetlana Kuznetsova and Veronika Kudermetova got the better of Jennifer Brady and Yulia Putintseva respectively to earn high-profile contests in round two.

Kuznetsova faces top seed Belinda Bencic next, while Kudermetova will take on defending champion Kiki Bertens.

France's Caroline Garcia was dumped out by compatriot Fiona Ferro after her original opponent, Anastasija Sevastova, withdrew in the aftermath of a famous Fed Cup win over Serena Williams.

There were also victories for Oceane Dodin and Ekaterina Alexandrova.

At the Thailand Open, second seed Martic was dumped out by 18-year-old Wang Xiyu, who triumphed 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 28 minutes and did not drop serve in the match.

Third seed Wang Qiang cruised past Han Xinyun in under an hour, while Liang En-shuo, Patricia Maria Tig, Zhu Lin, Barbara Haas, Katarzyna Kawa and Peng Shuai were Tuesday's other winners in Hua Hin.

Number one seed Elina Svitolina starts against Bibiane Schoofs on Wednesday.

Sixth seed Maria Sakkari came from behind to earn a dramatic win over qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko as the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy got under way on Monday.

The Greek beat her opponent in straight sets when they met in Adelaide last month, but the world number 89 put up more of a fight this time.

Sakkari, who reached the Australian Open fourth round, ultimately prevailed 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) in two hours and 38 minutes after surviving an almighty scare.

Diatchenko twice failed to serve out the match in the deciding set and squandered a match point at 5-2, later paying the price in a tie-break where she fell 4-0 down and could not recover.

There was less drama for eighth seed Elena Rybakina as she earned a 6-3 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova.

Anastasia Potapova came out on top in an all-Russian encounter with Liudmila Samsonova in the only other match to take place on day one of the WTA Premier event.

Belinda Bencic, Kiki Bertens, Petra Kvitova and Johanna Konta, the top four seeds, all got a bye in round one.

At the Thailand Open, fourth seed Zheng Saisai needed four set points before claiming a tense opener that set up a 7-6 (8-6) 6-0 triumph over Natalija Kostic.

Nao Hibino defeated Arina Rodionova 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, while there were also victories for Storm Sanders, Leonie Kung, You Xiaodi and home hope Peangtarn Plipuech.

Petra Martic will start her campaign against Wang Xiyu on Tuesday, with top seed Elina Svitolina not scheduled to play Bibiane Schoofs in her first-round contest until Wednesday.

Kim Clijsters will launch her comeback to the WTA Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships this month.

The 36-year-old Belgian, who won three US Open titles and an Australian Open before retiring in 2012, revealed in September she would attempt what will rank among professional sport's most audacious returns to action.

A knee injury sustained in November meant she missed the start of the 2020 season, but Clijsters is just days away from playing again at the top level.

The Dubai event runs from February 17-29 and Clijsters has secured a wildcard entry to the singles draw, joining a field that includes Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu.

Clijsters wrote on Twitter: "I’m accepting a wild card to play the @DDFTennis. Since announcing my return, there have been a few bumps but looking forward to returning to the match court and what this next chapter brings.

"Thanks to all my fans for their encouragement these past weeks. See you in Dubai!"

She told the tournament's website: "I am really excited to be getting back to the match court. I can't wait to return to the game I love and play in front of the fans again – the support and encouragement that I've received since the announcement has been overwhelming."

Clijsters has also committed to playing at the Monterrey Open, which gets under way on March 2. She also intends to be in action in Indian Wells the following week and plans to play in Charleston in April.

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