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22 February 2024

Dubai Tennis Championships: Ailing Wozniacki earns showdown with Halep

By Agencies

Caroline Wozniacki overcame a persistent fever, a seed-beater, difficulties with her first serve, and a late night finish to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for the fifth successive time on Thursday.

The former world number one from Denmark's 7-5, 6-0 win over the world number 14 from Italy, Flavia Pennetta, confirmed the feeling that she is gradually edging her way back towards the summit, even though her standard was not always all she wanted.

Top seed Simona Halep will play third seed Caroline Wozniacki, and 17th seed Karolina Pliskova will play unseeded Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.

Wozniacki twice conceded early breaks of serve before repairing the damage, and was unable to force her advantage home when she was twice within two points of taking the first set.

She nevertheless struck her ground strokes consistently, if not always as forcibly as she has recently.

Once she had a set in the bag Wozniacki accelerated her progress encouragingly against an opponent who had dismissed the seventh-seeded Angelique Kerber the previous day.

"Obviously with the way I have been feeling this week, I'm just trying to save as much energy as I can for all the matches I have to play," Wozniacki said.

"I'm definitely very pleased with the way I have played and the way I fought.  Even when I haven't felt good, I've still managed to win.

"But today, you know, with the fever down, I definitely felt much better. Hopefully it's a step in the right direction, and I don't mind being sick for the rest of this week because obviously that's bringing me some good luck."

Wozniacki next plays the top seed, Simona Halep, who had a much closer call to reach the semis.

The lively and creative Romanian was within one point of going a break down in the seventh game of the final set before surviving 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 against Ekaterina Makarova, a deceptive left-hander from Russia.

Halep then led 5-3, was broken to love, reached 6-5 and still needed five match points before she was able to close it out.

"I was a little bit nervous to finish," she admitted. "I don't know why, but, you know, sometimes you feel like that."

The other semi-final will be between two of the newest and most interesting young climbers in the world's top 30, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza.

Pliskova, a striking 22-year-old from Prague, upset the seedings for the second successive day and reached the semi-finals for the second successive week.

She also turned her match dramatically on its head from a set and 1-3 down in a 3-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-1 win over Lucie Safarova, her 11th seeded compatriot.

Last week the tall Czech with one of the steepest and most dangerous first serves in the game reached the Antwerp semis, and last month she became the youngest top 20 player by breaking into the top echelon for the first time.

However, she had to survive a crisis at 5-5 in the second set when she slipped to 15-40, within one solid blow of probable defeat, before altering the psychology of the match utterly in an emotion-turning last point of the tie-break.

Muguruza, a 21-year-old from Barcelona, delivered a 6-7(4-7), 6-3, 6-3 win over her doubles partner Carla Suarez Navarro, the 13th seed who had eliminated the Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.

Navarro, with her great movement and battling ground strokes, tenaciously saved three set points and grabbed the first set, but Muguruza, calm and elegantly proficient in all areas thereafter looked slightly the more likely to win a high quality encounter full of fluent rallies.

Muguruza said she was helped by her coach Alejo Macisidor. "He said to me just, this match is mentally (sic)," she said.  "You're playing good, both Carla and you. It's just mentally.  You know, don't be with a lot of nerves.  Just become.  That's it.  All mental."

Muguruza added that she might have learned something from having played Karolina Pliskova before, but then on second thoughts wasn't sure whether it had been her twin sister Krystina. Hopefully she will become surer some time tomorrow.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event continues until February 21.

Play then continues between February 23 and 28 with the action-packed ATP tournament which stars world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. 

Results in the WTA Dubai Open on Thursday (x denotes seeding):


Karolina Pliskova (CZE x17) bt Lucie Safarova (CZE x11) 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
Garbine Muguruza (ESP) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP x13) 6-7(4-7), 6-3, 6-3
Simona Halep (ROM x1) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS x6) 6-3, 1-6, 7-5
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x3) bt Flavia Pennetta (ITA x10) 7-5, 6-0