Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 20, 2020: Top seed Simona Halep survived a gallant challenge from Ons Jabeur on Wednesday, fighting off a match point before claiming a 1-6 6-2 7-6 (7) victory and a place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Australian Open finalist and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza was also stretched by qualifier Veronika Kudermetova before emerging with a 7-5 4-6 6-4 victory, while second seed Karolina Pliskova enjoyed a more comfortable 6-1 6-2 win over Kristina Mladenovic.
The outcome of the enthralling battle between Halep and Jabeur hung in the balance until the very last ball, with Halep leading 4-1 in the final set and Jabeur serving for victory at 6-5 and holding a match point at 7-6 in the tiebreak, before Halep secured victory on her fourth match point to bring the thrilling two hour battle to a dramatic conclusion.
“In the end I don't know how I could finish that in a right way,” said the relieved world number two. “It's really tough to read her game because she doesn't give rhythm. She can make unbelievable shots; she can miss a little bit too easy. After a long period that I didn't play matches, after that semi-final that I lost in Australia, I'm really happy that I could just fight till the end and to turn it around even if I was leading 4-1. I was down in the tiebreak. But it was a good match.”
Jabeur was bitterly disappointed that she had come so close but ended up with nothing to show for her efforts.
“Unfortunately I didn't play my best tennis today,” she said. “There is a lot of positive things in this match, but I feel like a lot of negativity right now, which is going to take time for me to be in a better spot I hope. The only thing going to replay in my head is match point. Should have been patient more. But then the stress and everything, it wasn't really easy. Yeah, it's going to hurt for a few days, that's for sure.”
Pliskova, who also beat Mladenovic at the recent Australian Open, never looked in danger. But, despite the score suggesting her victory was overwhelming, she had to keep on her toes against an aggressive opponent who produced several excellent winners.
“Although the score was easy, she was still fighting in the second set,” said Pliskova. “I think it was positive that I really stayed in because she could make it difficult for me if I don't really stay in the match. That's what actually happened in Australia. I think she got much better in the second set. It was also getting a little bit here. I think I made it easier for myself that I just stayed there every point.”
Muguruza was never able to take control at any stage of her two hour 25-minute confrontation with Kudermetova.
“Well, I think she's playing great,” said Muguruza.. “Nowadays, even if it's not the biggest name, every match is tough. I think she played super aggressive, super big serves. There's a lot of things that I could have done better. But I'm excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarter-finals, just staying in the fight because she was playing great, not giving up until the last point. I'm just happy that I get these tough matches on my side. Honestly, the difference is very, very small.”
Muguruza will next play qualifier Jennifer Brady, who followed up her defeat of two-time champion Elina Svitolina by fighting her way to a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory over Marketa Vondrousova. After Vondrousova led by a set and 4-1, Brady, ranked 52, claimed the final five games of the second set and then won the last five games of the third. She will now compete in her second quarter-final of the year as a qualifier, following her impressive run last month in Brisbane where after qualifying she defeated both Maria Sharapova and world number one Ashleigh Barty before losing to Petra Kvitova.
“Simona Halep and Ons Jabeur played a match that will stay in the memory for years,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It was impossible to predict the winner, and it was a great pity that someone had to lose such a competitive match played in a wonderful atmosphere. We wish Ons the very best in the months ahead as she continues to inspire Arab women with her success in climbing the rankings.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Matches do not come any more dramatic and entertaining as the one we saw tonight between Simona Halep and Ons Jabeur, and it was a privilege to watch. And that was not the only close match of the day, as Garbine Muguruza was stretched to the limit by Veronika Kudermetova. The stage is now set for an exciting and unpredictable final three days, with no-one sure of who will lift the winner's trophy on Saturday.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The tournament continues with the WTA event until 22nd February and is then followed between 24th and 29th February by the ATP tournament which features Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut.