Dubai Tennis Championships: Halep ousts Wozniacki to reach final

Simona Halep of Romania returns the ball to Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their women's singles tennis semi-final match at the WTA Dubai Tennis Championships February 20, 2015. (Reuters)

Simona Halep beat Caroline Wozniacki 2-6 6-1 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Dubai Championships on Friday as the indefatigable Romanian pounded her foe from the baseline.

The Romanian top seed will be favourite to overcome Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s Aviation Club final after the Czech baseliner subdued Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-4 5-7 7-5 in the other semi.

“Day by day, I’ve played better – I tried to be aggressive, I’m playing good tennis, I’m feeling relaxed,” Halep said in a courtside interview.

Halep, wearing a mauve skirt and purple vest, struggled to find her range in the opening exchanges as she surrendered the first set with a double fault.

But the Romanian, who feels she now has the big game experience to win grand slams following a breakthrough 2014, began the second set re-energised.

She broke Wozniacki immediately, taking advantage of a short second serve to slug a forehand crosscourt winner.

Halep's finesse, power and speed over the court allowed her to level the match as Wozniacki, suffering from illness and a troublesome knee, wilted under pressure.

The Romanian ended up claiming 12 of the last 14 games as she secured a place in the final.

"The first set I was playing pretty decent," two-time U.S. Open finalist Wozniacki told reporters. "But start of the second I made a few stupid mistakes on important points."

Wozniacki had been battling sickness as well as her opponents all week, and she looked deflated as the match slipped away from her.

“I definitely think it's taken a toll on me, and I'm still pretty pleased with my week considering everything that has been going on,” she said. “I was trying everything. I was just making so many errors, and I don't really know where they came from. I think I was just tired. You know, it's been a long week for me.”

In the other semi-final, Pliskova proved too consistent for Muguruza, who veered between brilliant and bewildering.

Tough playing conditions could explain some of the world number 24’s difficulties - temperatures were in the mid-30s Celsius as a sand storm engulfed Dubai and drew a phalanx of helpers to sweep the court beforehand.

But Muguruza was often wild in her serving and too aggressive on return, allowing Pliskova to keep the ball in play and wait for the Spaniard to blunder.

“It was a really long match,” said Pliskova, who has also reached her second final of the year.

“There was so many close points and close games. I was losing. She had some break points in the third set, as well. There's just few points which is deciding.”

Muguruza was disappointed at losing the match after coming so close to victory, but she appreciated that she had enjoyed an excellent week.

“I think the key was her serve,” said Muguruza. “She served so good. I couldn't break her serve. I mean, obviously when you cannot break the other one's serve you feel a lot of pressure with your serve. But it was a very good week. I won incredible matches.”

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. 

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