Dubai Premier 2020: Simon Halep and Garbine Muguruza survive thrillers to reach QFs

Tunisian Jabeur served for win at 6-5, had match point at 7-6 in tiebreak, but lost to former champion

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Simona Halep
Simona Halep (Photo: LTA, Nature Valley International / Getty Images)

Top seed Simona Halep survived a gallant challenge from Ons Jabeur, fighting off a match point before claiming a 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(7) victory and a place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Australian Open finalist and two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza was also stretched by qualifier Veronika Kudermetova before emerging with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory, while second seed Karolina Pliskova enjoyed a more comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Kristina Mladenovic.

The outcome of the enthralling battle between Halep and Jabeur hung in the balance until the very last ball, with Halep leading 4-1 in the final set, Jabeur serving for victory at 6-5 and then holding a match point at 7-6 in the tiebreak. But Halep secured victory on her fourth match point to bring the two-hour battle to a dramatic conclusion.

Halep, a former Dubai champion, said:

“In the end, I don’t know how I could finish that in a right way. It’s really tough to read her game because she doesn’t give rhythm. She can make unbelievable shots; she can miss a little but too easy. After a long period that I didn’t play matches, after that semi-final that I lost in Australia, I’m really happy that I could just fight till the end and turn it around even if I was leading 4-1. I was down in the tiebreak. But it was a good match.”

Jabeur was bitterly disappointed that she had come so close but ended up with nothing to show for her efforts. She said:

“Unfortunately, I didn’t play my best tennis today. There is a lot of positive things in this match, but I feel like a lot of negativity right now, [and it] is going to take time for me to be in a better spot I hope. The only thing going to replay in my head is match point. Should have been more patient. But then the stress and everything, it wasn’t really easy. Yeah, it’s going to hurt for a few days, that’s for sure.”

Muguruza was never able to fully take control of her two-hour 25-minute match against Kudermetova, and admitted:

“Well, I think she’s playing great. Nowadays, even if it’s not the biggest name, every match is tough. I think she played super aggressive, super big serves. There’s a lot of things that I could have done better. But I’m excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarter-finals, just staying in the fight because she was playing great, not giving up until the last point. I’m just happy that I get these tough matches on my side. Honestly, the difference is very, very small.”

Muguruza will next play qualifier Jennifer Brady, who followed up her defeat of two-time champion Elina Svitolina by fighting her way to a 4-6, 6-4. 6-1 victory over Marketa Vondrousova.

With a spot in the semi-finals on the line, Halep will next face No7 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who beat doubles partner Elise Mertens to book her place among the final eight.

Sabalenka beat Halep in the quarter-finals of the Adelaide International in January, 6-4, 6-2, but the world No2 said:

“Tomorrow is a different match, so I have to forget this one… In Australia, I didn’t touch the ball that much in that match. But tomorrow is a new day. I’m different than Adelaide. Hopefully, I can play better.”

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