Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Gauff unfazed by Swiatek challenge

Krejcikova stuns Sabalenka in the quarterfinals

By Joy Chakravarty

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Coco Gauff hits a return during her quarterfinal match in Dubai on Thursday. — Photos by Shihab
Coco Gauff hits a return during her quarterfinal match in Dubai on Thursday. — Photos by Shihab

Published: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 10:27 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 10:28 PM

Barbora Krejcikova, with her back pinned to the wall, fought back like a cornered tigress as she brought Aryna Sabalenka’s 13-match winning streak to a surprising end.

In their quarterfinal match on Thursday, Krejcikova lost the first set without winning a game, but roared back to win the second via a tie-breaker (in which Sabalenka double-faulted twice at a crucial juncture) and then wrapped up the third in quick time. The Australian Open champion was knocked out 0-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.


In the other quarterfinal match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Coco Gauff hardly broke a sweat as she waltzed through her all-American battle against Madison Keys. However, Friday’s match will be a completely different matter.

The fifth seed was always expected to get the better of Keys, ten years her senior. It took her to a first-ever semi-final in Dubai, but also puts her up against world No1 Iga Swiatek.


After her 6-2, 7-5 win in one hour and 21 minutes over Keys, Gauff was asked in the courtside interview if she has learned anything from the five defeats. She burst out laughing and said: “That I did something wrong five times!”

The 19-year-old, who lost the French Open final to Swiatek last year, said the one advantage she has over her opponent is that there is absolutely no pressure and she can freewheel through the match.

“To be honest, she’s playing great tennis and there’s a reason why she’s the number one,” said the promising American, who grew up admiring the Williams sisters.

Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory over Aryna Sabalenka
Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory over Aryna Sabalenka

“So, tomorrow is tomorrow. I have no pressure. I think I’m just going to try to play my game. I definitely think I’ve gotten better since the last time I played her.

“But you know, ranking is just a number at the end of the day. It’s going to be a challenge. But, to be honest, I think it’s a good matchup just to see where I can maybe improve on. You just have to go out on the courts believing you can win even when the odds seem stacked against you.”

Against Keys, Gauff started by breaking her serve in the very first game. She was only broken once, in the fourth game of the second set. But that was after she had already gone up after another early break.

Gauff’s athleticism and returns stood out as she ran down several balls.

“Definitely my returns. Maddie is a big server so, I was surprised how many returns I was able to get in the court. I think in the first set I returned very well,” said Gauff, who reached the semi-finals of a WTA 1000 event for the second time in career after 2021 Rome.

“I was just staying present in the moment and setting the good shot. She’s a great player and not easy to compete against, and she has some great wins this week. I knew it was going to be a tough match and I’m glad that I stayed stable when I needed to.”

Meanwhile, the top seed and world No1 Swiatek and third seed Jessica Pegula did not have to hit a single ball in advancing.

Karolina Pliskova, suffering from a viral fever, gave a walkover to Swiatek, while Karolina Muchova could not take to the court with an abdominal injury.

RESULTS

WOMEN’S SINGLES (QUARTERFINALS)

1-Iga Swiatek (POL) beat Karolina Pliskova (CZE) walkover

5-Coco Gauff (USA) beat Madison Keys (USA) 6-2, 7-5

Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) beat 2-Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) beat 0-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1

3-Jessica Pegula (USA) beat Karolina Muchova (CZE) walkover

DOUBLES QUARTERFINALS

Veronika Kudermetova/Liudmila Samsonova beat Leylah Fernandez (CAN)/Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 7-5, 7-5

3-Desirae Krawczyk (USA)/Demi Schuurs (NED) beat Monica Niculescu (ROU)/Kimberley Zimmermann (BEL) 6-0, 6-4

2-Lyudmyla Kichenok (UKR)/Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat 7-Zhaoxuan Yang (CHN)/Vera Zvonareva (UKR) 6-7 (3), 6-2, 10-8


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