It has been a wild week at the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Championships; all eight seeds failed to win a match, a feat that had never occurred at a Premier event and hadn’t happened on the WTA tour since Bastad in 2014. After all the upsets we are left with a final to be contested between Barbora Strycova and Sara Errani… which i’m well on board with! I got to witness their last match live which was a truly unforgettable live tennis experience haha!
Errani was first into the final with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Elina Svitolina. Once again, the stats were not pretty. Svitolina needed to play an aggressive and tactically sound match to get the win but became entangled in Errani’s web, unable to break down the Italian’s superior defence. Svitolina hit eight more winners, but also 20 additional unforced errors. Errani had had a challenging year up till now, winning two matches in Sydney against Carla Suárez Navarro and Jelena Jankovic, but failing to win a match anywhere else. It was a decent week in terms of results for Svitolina, but performance-wise, I don’t think it was her best. I wonder how the partnership with Justine Henin is going to go, particularly with the additional pressure of such a high profile champion in her team.
The second semi-final went the distance with Strycova overcoming a mid-match blip to defeat Caroline Garcia for the fourth consecutive time; Strycova won, 6-2 3-6 6-3 in two hours and 13 minutes. Strycova led 6-2 2-0 before Garcia went on a roll, winning seven of the next eight games. Strycova settled down at the start of the third set, finding some lines to get ahead on serve after saving a break point at 1-1. Serving with scoreboard pressure at *3-4, Garcia threw in a slack game to get broken. Strycova quickly went down *15-40 serving for the match, but came up with some super serving, producing her only ace on match point. Kudos to Garcia who had a very encouraging week.
Head-to-head record: Errani leads Strycova in the head-to-head, 5-1. Errani won their last match in Eastbourne, saving a match point to prevail, 6-2 6-7(1) 7-6(7) in three hours and two minutes. It was an absolute classic on all levels… Stycova was in a right old mood, bouncing her racquet and spending most of the match on the floor. Errani was mega pissed at the umpire for a call and then the crowd for laughing during points. And actually, it was a super entertaining tennis match with so much good stuff played at the net. You can see all my pictures from the match HERE.
Final thoughts: With both going for a first Premier title, I think there will be some nerves. For Errani, she’s had a gruelling week having played doubles as well, but she’s demonstrated her fighting qualities. I remember when Strycova played Errani at Eastbourne that I was super confident that she would prevail, particularly on her favoured surface of grass, but it didn’t happen. I feel somewhat similar with this final; my general feeling is that Strycova should come through, but Errani is such a gritty competitor and while she certainly has her heated moments on the court, she is likely to be the more stable player, also having had experience of many more finals. I’m torn…