Dubai WTA500 2022: Ostapenko saves match point to beat Kvitova as Halep cruises on
Next up, Latvian faces former champ Halep, who put out final seed Jabeur
In such a packed, high-quality field, where all eight seeds were ranked in the top 10, there were sure to be dangerous names lurking in the early rounds that could cause an upset at the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Three of those seeds were former Major champions, but five more were scattered elsewhere among the 32. There were four former Dubai champions in the mix, too, some of those also unseeded, and meanwhile, the top seed, Aryna Sabalenka, did not fill any of these criteria.
So perhaps it should surprise no-one that, as the draw shook down to the last eight, there remained only one seed, No8 Ons Jabeur.
For there were upsets aplenty at the half-way point, with defending champion Garbine Muguruza, 2021 finalist Barbora Krejcikova, and sixth seed Iga Swiatek—Major champions all—losing to unseeded women, as did former two-time winner Elina Svitolina.
World No2 Sabalenka also lost, though her defeat was perhaps less of a surprise given that she faced another former champion Petra Kvitova.
Lucky Loser, Jil Teichmann was the first to reach the quarter-finals after she defeated Svitolina, 7-6, 6-2. Jelena Ostapenko then took two and a half hours to oust Swiatek, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6. Meanwhile, qualifier Dayana Yastremska beat No2 seed and French Open champion, Krejcikova, 6-3, 7-6, and Veronika Kudermetova, ranked 31, beat Muguruza, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
All eyes, then, turned to the top half of the draw, for although Jabeur was the only seed, she played former champion Simona Halep, whose current ranking of 23 belied her 23 career titles. Halep was the only woman left in the draw to have won a title already this year, too, in the Melbourne Summer Set. Now up to 10 wins for the season, she was looking to level the tour-leading 11 of Ash Barty and Madison Keys.
And the two-time champion and former world No1 did it with relative ease, in just an hour and 20 minutes, beating Jabeur, 6-4, 6-3.
Although Halep built a 5-2 lead in the first set, she struggled to close it out, double-faulting on break point as she served at 5-3. But she went on to get her third and decisive break of the set in the next game.
Jabeur responded by taking a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Halep fought back to win the next five games to lead 5-2, before closing out the match.
Not that things get any easier for the popular Romanian. For the other match at the top of the draw featured two of the three remaining Major champions, former Dubai titlist Kvitova and Ostapenko, ranked 25 and 21 respectively.
Kvitova it was who beat Sabalenka, the first time this season she had won back-to-back matches. As for Ostapenko, she was now eyeing up her third straight Major-winning opponent, having beaten Sofia Kenin in Round 1, and then Swiatek. Still only 24 years old, Ostapenko was also aiming to reach back-to-back semi-finals for the first time since 2019.
Their match swung back and forth, with huge winning strikes on return of serve breaking each other time after time.
After a blistering start by Ostapenko that saw her build a 4-1 lead, the Latvian eventually conceded the first set, 7-5. In the second set, Kvitova broke to lead 1-0 and Ostapenko continued to struggle on her serve, but then, serving at 5-4 and after being two points from victory, Kvitova double-faulted to allow her opponent to level at 5-5, and Ostapenko completed her recovery by breaking again for the set, 7-5.
After exchanging early breaks in the third, Kvitova broke again to lead 5-4 but again failed to serve out the match, and in a marathon tiebreak, Kvitova held a match point at 8-7 before Ostapenko claimed victory on her fourth match point, winning the tiebreak 11-9, after two hours 39 minutes.
The bottom half featured two qualifiers, Marketa Vondrousova against the 146-ranked Yastremska, and lucky-loser Teichmann against the highest ranked of the four, No31 Kudermetova.
In the first, Kudermetova reached her third career WTA500 semi-final, beating Teichmann 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 after almost two and a half hours. The Russian, playing with a heavily strapped thigh, was previously runner-up at Abu Dhabi 2021 and won her maiden title at Charleston later in the year. She then began 2022 with a runner-up finish at the Melbourne Summer Set, and will play to reach another final against Vondrousova, who beat Yastremska, 7-5, 6-4.