Dubai Duty Free Tennis: I was just fighting, says Krejcikova after shock win over Sabalenka

Krejcikova will take on Pegula in the second semifinal

By Joy Chakravarty

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Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory. — Photo by Shihab
Barbora Krejcikova celebrates her victory. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 12:06 AM

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.

A relieved Krejcikova said after her match: “I was just fighting. There’s not really much you can change because she plays well, she serves well, she hits really hard. I was just trying to get to her pace, just try to be a little more aggressive because otherwise, it’s difficult to do something else.

“I just told myself ‘Just go for it, just fight, just don't leave without fight’. I felt that I was going to get some chances. Just wait for my chances and then just try to convert it.”

Krejcikova will take on Pegula in the second semi-final.

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.

“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.



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


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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