Swiatek downs Svitolina in Dubai, Gauff reaches quarters

Published February 23, 2024
UKRAINE’S Elina Svitolina eyes a return against Iga Swiatek of Poland during their Dubai Tennis Championship round-of-16 match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre.—Reuters
UKRAINE’S Elina Svitolina eyes a return against Iga Swiatek of Poland during their Dubai Tennis Championship round-of-16 match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre.—Reuters

DUBAI: Iga Swiatek avenged her defeat to Elina Svitolina from Wimbledon last year with a commanding 6-1, 6-4 performance on Wednesday to blast into the Dubai Tennis Championship quarter-finals.

The Polish world number one, who bagged a third consecutive Doha title on Saturday, needed one hour and 23 minutes to defeat the 20th-ranked Svit­olina, who returned this week from a back injury she sustained at last month’s Australian Open.

A runner-up in Dubai 12 months ago, Swiatek now awaits the winner of the late clash between Zheng Qinwen and Anastasia Potapova.

Meanwhile, US Open champion Coco Gauff snapped Karolina Pliskova’s 11-match winning streak, claiming a hard-fought 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to reach a second consecutive Dubai quarter-final.

Gauff had a lengthy argument with chair umpire Pierre Bacchi late in the second set but did not allow the back-and-forth to derail her as she set up a last-eight clash with Anna Kalinskaya.

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina was made to work in her 7-6(7-5), 3-6, 6-4 victory over Magdalena Frech, needing two hours and 40 minutes to overcome the in-form Polish qualifier.

Rybakina is through to the quarter-finals for the fifth time in six tournament appearances this season. The 2022 Wimbledon champion has scored 10 wins from 11 matches contested across three different cities in the last 14 days — a run that included a title in Abu Dhabi and a runner-up showing in Doha.

World number 53 Frech was up 5-3 in the opening set, and led 5-3 in the tie-break, but Rybakina wiped both deficits to clinch the first frame in 65 minutes.

Frech did not dwell on her missed opportunities and raced to a 3-0 advantage in the second set. Serving at 2-5, Rybakina saved a trio of set points but the fourth seed couldn’t stop Frech from securing the set to force a decider.

The pair were neck and neck in the final set but it was Rybakina who pounced when a tiny window opened, breaking serve in the last game to book a quarter-final meeting with Jasmine Paolini.

Earlier on Centre Court, Italian world number 26 Paolini claimed the 10th top-20 victory of her career by knocking out eighth seed Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 21 minutes.

The win earned Paolini a place in a WTA 1000 quarter-final for just the second time, having reached that stage in Cincinnati last summer.

Paolini dismissed 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in her opening two rounds in Dubai.

Over on Court 1, Jelena Ostapenko, a two-time titlist already in 2024, fell 6-4, 7-5 to Kalinskaya.

Russian Kalinskaya is enjoying a strong season so far, having reached a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open last month.

Ostapenko entered the meeting with Kalinskaya carrying a 16-3 win-loss record for the season, with all losses coming against Victoria Azarenka.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2024

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