DUBAI, Tenth seed Elise Mertens and unseeded Barbora Krejcikova advanced into the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday, but in contrasting fashion. While Mertens was kept on court for two hours 47 minutes before emerging with a 5-7 7-5 6-0 victory over Jessica Pegula, Krejcikova took just 62 minutes to overwhelm tournament wild card Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-2.
“Barbora Krejcikova thrilled us last year when she came so close to claiming the doubles title, and her game has continued to develop over the past year to also make her a contender in the singles,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Elise Mertens showed remarkable spirit to fight off an uncompromising challenge from Jessica Pegula, and there is no doubt that she can also be considered as a possible champion here this week.”
Although Krejcikova had not previously competed in the main draw in Dubai, and played only the 50th main draw match of her career in beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the quarter-finals, she has enjoyed outstanding success in doubles and in 2020 she came tantalisingly close to winning the doubles title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, surrendering the final in a match tiebreak.
She has triumphed in doubles at both Wimbledon and the French Open, and already this season she has won the Gippsland Trophy, reached the final of the Australian Open and retained her mixed doubles title there, and last week she was a doubles semi-finalist in Doha.
Perhaps drained by her struggle to overcome 2019 champion Belinda Bencic on Wednesday in a match that finished at 7-5 in the third set, Potapova was unable to offer much of a challenge to her more experienced opponent.
In a match of fluctuating fortunes, Pegula left it late to gain an advantage over Mertens in the first set, consistently struggling to hold serve. She needed seven minutes to hold in the opening game and when Mertens broke to lead 5-4 alarm bells rang. But Pegula not only broke at love to level at 5-5 but then took the 75-minute first set when Mertens double-faulted with Pegula leading 6-5.
The second set was also full of drama as Pegula led 5-2 and served for victory at 5-3 but was broken at love, and she failed to take advantage of three match points on her opponent’s serve at 5-4. Mertens then broke to lead 6-5 and served out to level the match. A deflated Pegula then had little left to give in the final set.
“Although the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has consistently attracted nearly every top player in the world, this is the 10th year in succession that at least one unseeded player has advanced to the semi-finals,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “This year, we are certain to have an unseeded player in Saturday’s final, underlining that no opponent can ever be taken lightly.”
The WTA1000 tournament continues until 13th March and then will be followed between 14th and 20th March by the equally exciting ATP event, headed by reigning US Open champion and world number four Dominic Thiem, who will be in competition for the title against 2021 Rotterdam champion and world number eight Andrey Rublev, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut, 2021 Montpellier winner David Goffin and 2020 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Source: Emirates News Agency