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Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova Knock off Seeds in Dubai

Madison Keys toppled fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4 in Dubai. Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Madison Keys is helping a friend say farewell in Dubai this week—and looking like a woman intent on extending her stay.

Keys conquered fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships round of 16.

The 2017 US Open finalist Keys is partnering Sania Mirza in her farewell doubles tournament this week. Keys conceded she’s felt nerves wanting to play well for Mirza, but it hasn’t slowed her singles run.

“In  the day’s opening singles match on Centre Court, the pair traded early breaks before Keys broke again in game 11 and held on to take the first set. Keys broke Garcia again in game three of the second set and never looked back, serving out the match.

“Caroline is such an amazing player and had a great end to the year and has been playing at her top level,” said a Keys. “I knew I was going to have to play well, especially in that second set, take care of my serve and I’m happy to get the win.

“I’m really nervous [about her match with Mirza]. It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been for a match. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’ll do my best for Sania.”

The 23rd-ranked Keys will face two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka for a quarterfinal spot.

No. 15-seeded Azarenka fought off American Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) in a thriller. Anisimova was up a break at 4-2 and 5-3 in the final set, but Azarenka battled back and broke back for 5-4. Former world No. 1 Azarenka pulled out a tense tiebreaker to prevail.

Dangerous contenders sent high seeds tumbling from the field on Tuesday.

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Karolina Pliskova pounded sixth-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-2.

Just 24 hours after 10th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova and No.11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia lost their first-round matches, Sakkari joined them in making an early exit from the WTA 1000 event.

Picking up where she left off in her first-round match – where she lost just five games – Pliskova made quick work of her Greek opponent, winning in just 69 minutes to book a place in the round of 16.

“I’m really happy with the way I played,” said Pliskova. “It’s not every day you beat the sixth seed 6-1, 6-2! I also played a really good match in the first round, so I’m happy with my tennis.

“I’ve had many good tournaments in the past here. I missed last year so I’m happy to be back. I have my family with me, my sister with her baby, so I feel quite relaxed.”

Next up for 2015 Dubai finalist Pliskova is world No. 33 Anhelina Kalinina.

“I can’t look too far ahead though because my game can go up and down fast, so we’ll just look at the next match,” Pliskova said. “With this one, I knew if I played well I could win, so I’ll hopefully carry that forward.”

Daria Kastakina was another of the top seeds to fall on the first hurdle.

The No.7 seed fell to former Roland Garros singles and doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova, who triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 7- 5.

There was better news for the top seeds later in the afternoon as No.3 seed Jessica Pegula navigated a tricky Centre Court clash with Viktoriya Tomova to book her place in the third round.

American Pegula, ranked No.3 in the world, burst out of the blocks, taking the first set 6-2, but qualifier Tomova hit back, breaking Pegula three times to win the set 7-5 and take the match to a decider.

Clearly annoyed by her second-set performance, Pegula stormed back in the third, taking the first five games before closing out the match 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.

“It was tough out there – I’m exhausted now, but happy to get the win,” said Pegula, who along with partner Coco Gauff is the top seed in doubles. “I’ll get plenty of recovery and be ready to go tomorrow.”