Friday was semi-finals day at the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Championships with the number 10 seed, Caroline Wozniacki up first against Anastasija Sevastova in a repeat of last year’s US Open quarter-final. In a third straight sets win over Sevastova, Wozniacki won her ninth match in the last 10 days to win, 6-3 6-4. It sounded like a good match and this was a neat rally!
Wozniacki was understandably content in press after the win and talked about the groin strain she seemed to pick up in her match against Kateryna Bondarenko. She said that it’s more of a problem on the practice court with the adrenaline of the match situation taking over.
In the second of the semi-finals, Elina Svitolina recorded a third consecutive victory over Angelique Kerber, edging a wild second set to win in straights, 6-3 7-6(3). Svitolina led 6-3 5-2 with Kerber becoming more bothered by a leg/back complaint in the second set.
Kerber’s injury and a brief rain delay seemed to cause Svitolina to lose her concentration. Kerber compiled four straight games and stepped up to serve for the set; however, Svitolina refocused to break straight back and play a quality tiebreak. Kerber had her physical issues in this match but take nothing away from Svitolina who demonstrated her bounce-back ability once again. I think it’s one of her greatest strengths – if she has a setback, she never lets it dominate her and more often than not, gets back on track.
After a good start to the season, it felt time for Svitolina to make the next step in her career and start translating her consistent results from Internationals into the Premiers and Slams. She’s done just that in Dubai, winning her 11th straight match and reaching the biggest final of her career (i’d give this the edge over Zhuhai).
For Kerber, it was a promising week. I was worried after Doha but she showed flashes of quality during three impressive wins to reach the semi-finals. She’s not quite there yet but definitely on the way up. Svitolina has always been a player that she has been troubled by and she will now have two weeks off to heal any physical ailments ahead of the first Premier Mandatory tournament in Indian Wells.
So… we get another decent final in the Middle East with Wozniacki taking on Svitolina. The pair’s only previous match was an absolute slog in Miami which Svitolina won, 5-7 6-4 7-6(1) in two hours and 42 minutes. It’s bound to be another brutal affair with lengthy rallies.
In terms of a winner, i’m completely on the fence. There’s arguments in favour of both players – Wozniacki’s played a lot of tennis but I think she’ll be totally up for this, whatever niggles she may have, knowing it’s her last match for a while. She’s playing with so much more confidence than she was than this time last year. Same goes for Svitolina who is beginning to be more aggressive in the big match-ups.
Svit… Woz… Svit… Woz… I’m probably 51-49 in favour of Svitolina but no strong opinion either way. Who you got? Anyone have more confidence than me in who they think will win?!
The doubles final in Dubai will be contested between Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina and Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai. Peng and Hlavackova are having a superb year with 14 match wins in 2017 including a tight two set win over the Russian pair at the Australian Open.
In Budapest, Timea Babos and Lucie Safarova are both having a great week, reaching the semi-finals of singles and doubles, pairing up together as the number one seeds. Babos edged a flashly affair with Oceane Dodin on Friday, winning the two long games in the decider to prevail, 6-4 2-6 6-1. Safarova fought back from 0-4 down in a rollercoaster second set and needed four match points to eventually see off Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-3 7-5.
Safarova will play Carina Witthoeft in the first semi-final. The German player tore past fellow compatriot, Annika Beck, 6-1 6-1 (!) to reach the last four of a WTA tournament for the first time in her career. Babos faces another big hitting clash against Julia Goerges who didn’t face a break point in her 6-1 7-5 triumph over Yanina Wickmayer. Check out the Hungarian Open Facebook page for more photos from Friday’s quarter-finals.
I can’t wait to see Madison Keys back in action who is on the entry list for Indian Wells.
And finally, the players are arriving in Acapulco for next week’s Abierto Mexicano TELCEL tournament… looking stunning as always!