Dubai | Halep fends off Jabeur

Top seed Simona Halep dug her way out of the pit with a 1-6 6-2 7-6 win over the tenacious Tunisian, Ons Jabeur, as the quarter-final line-up of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open was completed on Wednesday.

I think I was a little bit lucky there. It was a tough match and I know she is a really tough player. I had to give everything I had and I am proud that I was able to fight till the end. The atmosphere was like a football match or a Fed Cup match. Simona Halep

The former World No 1 from Romania survived a gallant challenge from Jabeur, fighting off a match point before claiming her spot after a 2-hour battle.

Coached by Dubai-based Issam Jallali, the 25-year-old Jabeur was ruthless against her more fancied opponent, currently ranked No 2, as she came out firing all cylinders.

Egged on by a near-full stadium, the lone surviving former champion of the three who entered this week, just stuck to a game plan and hung in before escaping with a memorable win on centre court.

“I think I was a little bit lucky there,” Halep admitted to the fans. “It was a tough match and I know she is a really tough player.

“I had to give everything I had and I am proud that I was able to fight till the end,” the Romanian added.

“In the end I don’t know how I could finish that in a right way. But it was up-and-down a lot because she doesn’t give rhythm. It was very weird, but happy I could win.

“The atmosphere was like a football match or a Fed Cup match. I didn’t really realise what is going on on-court.

“Everyone was with a lot of energy so we had to give our best. I think it was a great match.”

Halep’s opponent in Thursday’s quarter-finals will be 7th seed Aryna Sabalenka after the Belarusian got past Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

“She [Sabalenka] is going to be yet another strong opponent. But I know that I need to play my own game and believe that I can win this one as well,” Halep said.

After the meek submission of the opening set that lasted just 25 minutes, Halep turned the tables in the second with an early break and a solid hold to go up 3-0.

The former World No 1 maintained the pressure and led 4-1, but, Jabeur reigned back on her errors and broke back, only to see Halep score another break to level at set all.

The Romanian called for a medical timeout to tend to her lower back and after leading 4-1 in the decider, the World No 2 lost 5 of the next 6 games and Jabeur stepped to the line to serve for victory.

Halep stayed alive by breaking serve to love, and looked as though she was set to ride her momentum through to an easy finish, winning 5 of 6 points from 2-1 down in the breaker to earn 3 consecutive match points.

Jabeur saved them all with a little bit of everything and earned herself a match point opportunity when Halep missed a backhand rally ball long for 7-6.

The Tunisian, however, proved unable to seal the upset as her forehand deserted her in the match’s final stages and Halep finally converted her 4th match point after forcing Jabeur to strike long.

Earlier in the day, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza stopped the rot after Tuesday’s carnage of seeds and, along with Elena Rybakina, rolled into the quarters.

Pliskova brushed aside qualifier Kristina Mladenovic, 6-1 6-2, in a little over one hour, while Muguruza, who had survived a battling former World No 1 in Kim Clijsters on the opening night, had to dig deep for her 7-5 4-6 6-4 win over Veronika Kudermetova after nearly 2-and-a-half hours.

Losing finalist at last weekend’s St Petersburg Open, the 20-year-old Rybakina, who packed off Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin on Tuesday, continued her fine form with a smooth 6-3 6-3 win over Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakova.

Elsewhere, qualifier Jennifer Brady continued her impressive run by seeing off Marketa Vondrousova, 4-6 6-4 6-1; Petra Martic, the 8th seed, dispatched Barbora Strycova, 6-3 6-3; and Anett Kontaveit got past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6(5) 7-5.



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