DUBAI: World No.1 Iga Swiatek remains on course to make it back-to-back titles on the WTA Tour after storming into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final with an impressive victory over fifth seed Coco Gauff in front of a delighted Center Court crowd on Friday evening.
Swiatek will need to be at her silky best for Saturday’s showdown after Barbora Krejcikova upset birthday girl Jessica Pegula 6-1, 5-7, 6-0, to book a second appearance in the Dubai final. Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open champion, lost to Garbine Muguruza two years ago.
Swiatek is in impressive form and needed just 88 minutes to see off American teenage sensation Gauff 6-4, 6-2. The three-time Grand Slam champion, who had a day off on Thursday after quarter-final opponent Karolina Pliskova withdrew with illness, took control of the match early, breaking Gauff’s serve twice in the first set.
Having dropped just three games in her first two matches this week, the in-form Pole broke in the first game of the second set and raced into a 4-0 lead. Gauff held her next two service games, but Swiatek broke in the seventh and comfortably held serve to secure a place in her first Dubai final. Following her victory, she took time to scribble a message on the TV camera, before revealing who the message was aimed at.
“I took my time because I didn’t know whether to write in Polish or English. My dad is coming for the final. It’s not often he comes to matches so I just wanted to ask him and pressure him,” said the World No.1, who has now beaten Gauff in six consecutive matches without dropping a set. “Coco is a great player. I knew it was going to be tough and I just had to focus on myself and stick to my tactics. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
There was no birthday luck on court for World No.3 Pegula, who became the latest big-name victim to fall to Krejcikova this week. The Czech star came into Friday’s clash in confident mood having already beaten two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the last 16 and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.
Looking comfortable on Center Court, Krejcikova raced to a 6-1 first-set win. Pegula dug deep in set two, breaking serve in game 12 to take the match into a third set. However, her opponent, a multiple Grand Slam doubles winner, wasn’t about to hand out any gifts on Pegula’s 29th birthday, storming the deciding set 6-0.
Having beaten the World No. 2 and No. 3 this week, she is in confident mood for Saturday’s final.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I think my game is improving with every match and I’m really happy with that,” said Krejcikova. “Tomorrow is going to be a new match, new day, different player, different day, definitely. I just have to sleep well and try to prepare the best way because I’m going to be playing the best player in the world.”
“I have to say, it’s always a huge challenge. I love challenges. I expect it’s going to be really difficult because she’s in great form. I believe that I’m playing well, as well. I think that I can find a plan that can push her (onto the back foot). I believe that I have a chance,” added the World No. 30, who beat Swiatek in the Ostrava WTA final last year.
Meanwhile, sisters Hao-ching and Latisha Chan continued their dream run in Dubai with a second successive victory over top-ranked opponents to book their place in Saturday’s Doubles final. Having beaten No. 1 seeds Gauff and Jessica Pegula in an intense quarter-final clash, the Taiwanese sisters saw off third seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs 6-1, 4-6, 10-4 in an all-action semi-final on Center Court.