Dubai 2019: Bencic and Hsieh battle past former No1s Halep and Pliskova to reach SFs

Belinda Bencic continued her giant-killing ways in the top half of the draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Belinda Bencic
Belinda Bencic (Photo: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships)

The unseeded Su-Wei Hsieh claimed a fine comeback win against No4 seed Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, a day after handing out the same treatment to another former No1, and the No5 seed in Dubai this week, Angelique Kerber.

Pliskova, the runner-up in Dubai in 2015, recovered well from losing the opening set—and the last 11 points—by winning the second set with ease, and then raced to a 5-1 lead in the third, but she was unable to close out the match.

Their two-hour battle recalled their only previous meeting, in Miami last year, when Hsieh recovered from 3-5 to take the final set to a tiebreak, saving six match points before Pliskova claimed the tightest of victories.

Pliskova admitted she was tired, and after winning the Brisbane title last month she went on to reach the semis at the Australian Open, before also playing two singles rubbers in the Fed Cup. Once in Dubai, she took three sets to beat Dominika Cibulkova in her opener, then two tiebreaks to beat Alison Riske.

She admitted:

“Maybe I started to be a little bit more passive. I thought it was already done, the match, because it looked like it. 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. I don’t know if there is anybody who likes to play her.”

She referred, perhaps, to the unusual style of Hsieh’s game, a mix of guile, spin, angle and variety rather than all-out power, skills that helped her claim the No1 doubles ranking a few years ago, though the 33-year-old is arguably now producing some of her best singles results.

Hsieh said of her latest victory:

“You know, she serves really big. She makes almost an ace every game. It was not easy to come back. I say to myself, ‘OK, if she does not ace me, I hit the ball, hit so much harder than before, then she cannot hit a winner. I have a chance to win [a few more] games, then the score don’t look too bad’.”

It looked better than that, of course: It looked very good. Now, though, she has to try and do it all over again, against another tall, power player, the No2 seed Petra Kvitova, who finally got a match won in straight sets after two long three-setters. The 2013 champion beat Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-4, 6-0, in just 62 minutes, and was rightly happy:

“I am pleased. Definitely more than those two matches before. I didn’t give her any time to do her job, maybe turn the match her way.”

Another unseeded woman, 21-year-old Belinda Bencic, continued her own giant-killing ways in the top half of the draw, beating another former Dubai champion and this year’s No3 seed Simona Halep, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and that after taking out one of the fastest-rising stars of the women’s game, No8 seed Aryna Sabalenka, in a third-set tie-breaker in the quarters.

On her way to victory over Sabalenka, the young Swiss player saved six match points, and was up against it early on against Halep, but the weight of so many matches in the Romanian’s legs this month—Fed Cup wins after the Australian Open and then a final run in Doha last week—took its toll. Instead, Bencic is into her first Premier-level semi since her 2016 run to the St Petersburg final.

She next plays either two-time and defending champion, No6 seed Elina Svitolina, or Carla Suarez Navarro for a place in the final.

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