Top seed Simona Halep will play rising star Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday.
Halep turned around her match after dropping the opening set and defeated former champion Caroline Wozniacki 2-6 6-1 6-1, while Pliskova came through a marathon that lasted just seven minutes under three hours with a 6-4 5-7 7-5 victory over Garbine Muguruza.
Wozniacki had been battling sickness as well as her opponents all week, and she looked deflated as the match slipped away from her.
“I definitely think it’s taken a toll on me, and I’m still pretty pleased with my week considering everything that has been going on,” she said. “I was trying everything. I was just making so many errors, and I don’t really know where they came from. I think I was just tired. You know, it’s been a long week for me.”
Halep was thrilled to be in her second final of the year and explained how she was able to recover after dropping the opening set.
“I started the match with a bad tactic. I just wanted to hit every ball, and I did many mistakes. I couldn’t find the rhythm,” she said. “So in the second set I said that I have to change it and just to play with a good length and to open the court more. I didn’t want to force too much like in first set. That worked very well for me.”
There was little to separate Pliskova and Muguruza throughout their match, with neither able to find a way to dominate the other in a contest of lengthy baseline rallies.
The first game alone took eight minutes and the first three games 20 as each sought an advantage, before Pliskova broke to lead 4-3 on her 10th break point when her opponent struck her eighth double-fault.
Pliskova then saved four break points to hold for 3-3 in the second set, but Muguruza still went on to level the match when Pliskova double-faulted on Muguruza’s third set point.
The outcome of the deciding set remained in doubt right up until the final ball, with Muguruza saving three break points and then holding but failing to win two break points of her own to lead 5-3. Pliskova then broke at love to lead 6-5, but still had to fight off three break points before closing out the match.
“It was a really long match,” said Pliskova, who has also reached her second final of the year. “There was so many close points and close games. I was losing. She had some break points in the third set, as well. There’s just few points which is deciding.”
Muguruza was disappointed at losing the match after coming so close to victory, but she appreciated that she had enjoyed an excellent week.
“I think the key was her serve,” said Muguruza. “She served so good. I couldn’t break her serve. I mean, obviously when you cannot break the other one’s serve you feel a lot of pressure with your serve. But it was a very good week. I won incredible matches.”
“We could not have wished for greater entertainment, and we were uncertain until the final moments who would win the titantic struggle between Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “It was also very enjoyable to see Simona Halep play so well against an opponent who has shown great fortitude in reaching the semi-finals while feeling far from her best.”