In a major upset, Belinda Bencic overcame world No. 2 Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-2 to set up a clash with defending champion Elina Svitolina, who defeated Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3.
Earlier, Su-Wei Hsieh claimed a stunning comeback against fourth seed Karolina Pliskova to win 6-4 1-6 7-5 and reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday. Her victory came a day after she had beaten fifth seed Angelique Kerber and earned her a meeting with Petra Kvitova, who defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0.
Pliskova had recovered well from losing the opening set by surrendering the last 11 points, easily winning the second set and then speeding to a 5-1 lead in the third. But she was unable to close out the match. Hsieh’s aim had been to make the score look more respectable, and she clearly exceeded her expectations.
“You know, she serve really big. She make almost ace every game. It was not easy to come back,” Hsieh said after reaching the biggest semi-final of her career. “I say myself, I say, ‘Okay, if she not ace me, I hit ball, hit so much harder than before, then she cannot hit winner. I have chance to win little bit more games, then the score don’t look too bad’.”
Pliskova admitted she was tired, but also that she had relaxed too much and thought the job was over.
“Maybe I start to be a little bit more passive. I thought is already done the match because it looked like,” said Pliskova. “She just started to play well. I didn’t do anything that wrong in the end. Of course, I could do better. I think she just played well in the end, just went for her shots. It’s tough to play her. I don’t like to play her.”
“Su-Wei Hsieh produced the biggest upset at Wimbledon last year when she defeated the world No. 1, Simona Halep, and she had proved again that she presents a difficult hurdle for even the very best. We congratulate her on another magnificent victory,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “She joins three other great competitors in what is certain to be a wonderful semi-finals day.”
Kvitova’s victory took just 62 minutes, welcome after two lengthy three-set battles this week, and she said, “I am pleased. Definitely more than those two matches before. I didn’t give her any, like, time to do her job, maybe turn the match on her way.”
Halep has played a heavy schedule, competing at Fed Cup and then reaching the Doha final in the last two weeks. Her match against Bencic was one match too many.
“Yeah, it was really difficult physically. I was tired,” Halep confessed. “After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. She played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger.”
Bencic had edged through a dramatic match late the previous evening, saving six match points before beating Aryna Sabalenka. But, rather than feeling drained by that battle, she was inspired.
“Actually, I gained a lot of confidence with this match (against Sabalenka),” she said. “Physically I was feeling fine. In the third set I told myself can’t give away any free points, don’t be too excited, don’t try to end the rally too soon. Sometimes you can get a little bit tight. I’m happy that I just played constant (and did) what I had to do.”
Svitolina is now just two matches away from a record-breaking third consecutive victory, but is taking it one match at a time. So far, so good.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played today. It was very tough,” said Svitolina. “She made me work for every ball. In the end, I was very solid and happy the way I played. I want to just focus on what I have to do my next match. For me, it’s just important to take one match at a time, to don’t look so much ahead.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Once again we have been able to enjoy some magnificent battles and thrilling upsets and, such is the talent of everyone who has advanced to the semi-finals, it is impossible to predict who will finish the week as the champion.”
Su-Wei Hsieh, Belinda Bencic, Simona Halep, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Karolina Pliskova