Halep dashes Jabeur's Dubai dream, Ostapenko clinches thriller

Simona Halep of Romania serves to Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. (AP)
Simona Halep of Romania serves to Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. (AP)

The other semis pits Veronika Kudermetova of Russia against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic



By James Jose

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 12:23 AM

Sadly, it was not to be. A first Arab champion in Dubai is still on ice after former winner Simona Halep broke Tunisian hearts by putting a full stop to Ons Jabeur’s dream in the quarterfinals of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday night.

Romanian Halep, the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion, and winner here in 2015 and 2020, showed her class in beating eight seed and world No.10 Jabeur in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 in 80 minutes, on Centre Court of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.

The world No.23 Halep, who had beaten Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina to clinch the title here two years ago, set up a semifinal meeting against Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, whom she had lost to, in the 2017 French Open final.

Ostapenko came through a thrilling three-setter against former Dubai winner and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic to book her berth in the last four.

The 2017 French Open champion held it all together against the 2013 Dubai winner to win 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (9) in the quarterfinal that lasted two hours and 39 minutes.

The other semis pits Veronika Kudermetova of Russia against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

“Yeah, I’m really pleased with the match. I think I played good tennis,” Halep said after the match.

“I was super strong on my legs. I knew that she’s changing the rhythm a lot. It’s never easy to actually find the rhythm during the match. I think I did well and I’m really happy that I could win against a tough opponent,” she added.

Looking ahead, Halep, who lost in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, was confident she has the game to dismantle the Grand Slam-slaying Ostapenko.

“Well, I feel confident. I feel that my game is there. I just need to play matches without thinking about the result. Of course, it’s going to be a big challenge tomorrow because it will probably be similar to today (Thursday) because Ostapenko is hitting very hard.

“But I’ve played her a few times, so I will think about those matches and think about what I will have to do,” the 30-year-old said.

Meanwhile, Jabeur, who was making her first appearance since her withdrawal from the season-opening Grand Slam — the Australian Open — said that considering the circumstances, she was pleased to make the quarters here in Dubai.

“I would have taken the quarterfinal, of course,” said Jabeur.

“Physically, I’m trying to come back. It’s not easy to not be 100% with Simona playing at this level. Physically, I think I wasn’t strong enough on my legs. Breathing-wise, moving-wise was not so good. Yeah, she was much better than me. I just want to keep positive. I don’t like to lose like this, but it is my first tournament after injury, so I really am glad that I at least won two matches here,” added the Tunisian.

Ostapenko, who had accounted for Polish sixth seed Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion and this year's Australian Open semifinalist, in the previous round, had jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first set after breaking Kvitova in the second game.

But she lost her serve in the seventh game, which allowed Kvitova to claw her way back in. Kvitova then broke Ostapenko in the ninth game and could have served out the set in the next.

But she was to lose her serve in the next as Ostapenko tied it at 5-5. But then, Ostapenko was broken again in the 11th game and Kvitova closed out the set in the next game.

Ostapenko got off the wrong foot in the second set, losing serve in the very first game. She then had to stave off two break points to hold serve in the seventh game. Kvitova had a brilliant opportunity to serve out for the set and the match in the 10th game but the tenacious Ostapenko fought for every point to break Kvitova and level it at 5-5.

Ostapenko earned two break points in the 12th game and converted on the second to push the match into a deciding third set.

Ostapenko and Kvitova traded breaks in the second and third games before Kvitova earned a crucial break in the ninth game.

That presented Kvitova a golden chance to serve out for the set and the match but Ostapenko was not to be written off. Ostapenko broke back to level it at 5-5. They held serve thereafter for the verdict to be decided via a tie-breaker.

Ostapenko had match points at 6-5 and then 7-6 but Kvitova was giving one last fist of it before having a match point herself at 8-7.

But Ostapenko didn’t display any chinks and held match point at 9-8. And although Kvitova managed to stave it off, Ostapenko was not to be denied, clinching it on the fourth match point with a brilliant return.

RESULTS

Quarterfinals

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Petra Kvitova (CZE) 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (9)

Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) beat Jil Teichmann (SU) 6-2, 5-7, 6-4

Simona Halep (ROU) beat [8] Ons Jabeur (TUN) 6-4, 6-3

Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) beat Dayana Yastremska (UKR) 7-5, 6-4

Order of play

Friday

Singles semifinals

5pm

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) vs Simona Halep (ROU)

7pm

Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) vs Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)


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