Halep and Wozniacki set for semi-final battle at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Top seed Simona Halep will play third seed Caroline Wozniacki, and 17th seed Karolina Pliskova will play unseeded Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships today.
Halep had to battle for two hours seven minutes to win 6-3 1-6 7-5 and avenge her defeat by Makarova in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last month. Wozniacki withstood early pressure to defeat Flavia Pennetta 7-5 6-0.
Pliskova needed two hours 26 minutes to edge past Lucie Safarova 3-6 7-6(5) 6-1, and Muguruza took two hours 19 minutes to overcome Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3.
Halep needed to show patience and hold her nerve as the momentum swung one way and then the other before she eventually managed to secure a place in her second semi-final of the year, failing to serve out the match at 5-3 and then needing five match points to clinch victory.
“I didn’t believe in my serve at that moment, and I just tried to finish very quickly and wasn’t good idea,” said Halep. “I was very nervous, and I wanted just to hit winners. It’s not possible at this level, and she’s a good player. I’m really happy that I could finish in the right way and to win, because it was a tough match.”
Wozniacki has been struggling with a sore throat and spending much of her time in bed this week, and that has helped her focus even more intently in her matches.
“I knew that when I’m out there I need to focus 100% on each point,” said Wozniacki. “I can’t just give loose ones away, because that means longer time on court which means I have less of a chance of winning, so especially like now. I think that’s definitely helped me focus.”
Pliskova’s victory was her second in two weeks over Safarova after she also won their quarter-final match in Antwerp, but she had to work hard to gain an advantage.
It took nine minutes for Safarova to hold serve in the opening game, but she then broke to lead 4-2 and went on to take the first set. Safarova then broke to lead the second set 2-1, but Pliskova fought back to level at 3-3 and went on to take the tiebreak on her third set point. She then dominated the third set.
“I would say that she deserved to win as well. I’m a little bit sorry for her,” said Pliskova, who will be bidding to reach her second final of the year after finishing as runner-up to Petra Kvitova in Sydney. “I called coach and he really helped me, and that’s probably the main thing why I won the second set, and then why I won the third set as well.”
Muguruza found it difficult playing a friend and fellow Spaniard, who reached the Antwerp final last week and is ranked at a career-high 13. And she had to bounce back after failing to win any of three first-set points.
“I was sad because I lost the first set, but I said, ‘If I want to win this match I cannot play bad the second set’,” said Muguruza. “My only chance is to win the second set and try to have chances to win the match. So I said, Okay, the second set I’m going to give it all, and if I win I will have options to win the match.”
“We have enjoyed tremendously competitive matches in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and it would be fair to say that none of the players deserved to lose,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “Now we can look forward to two superb semi-finals, one featuring players already at the very top of the game, and the other showcasing two of the most talented stars of the future.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event continues until 21st February. Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament which stars world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.