Dubai | Swiatek, Gauff and Rybakina move into Last 8, but Ostapenko exits

Iga Swiatek avenged her Wimbledon defeat against Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she will meet Zheng Qinwen, while Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina both needed 3 sets to get past Karolina Pliskova and Magdalena Frech respectively to also make it into the Last 8.

I'm happy that I'm still winning the matches. But I can see by the level that, of course, physically, and everything, it's dropping a bit. I don't know how much I can push, and how much I can recover in this half day. Elena Rybakina

Swiatek, the World No 1, dispatched two-time former Dubai champion Svitolina, 6-1 6-4, after an hour and 24 minutes, and extended her winning streak to 6 straight wins in the Middle East after claiming the Doha title for a third time last week.

“I really wanted to improve my focus compared to yesterday,” Swiatek said. “I am happy I did not lose my focus, and I remembered what I have to do, and it worked. I was a little bit calmer than I was yesterday.”

Swiatek won 7 games in a row from 1-1 in the first set to put herself in good position against Svitolina, who had won their last meeting in 3 sets in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last summer, and edged a tighter second set that saw 5 combined service breaks.

Now 2-1 against Svitolina all-time, Swiatek has won 25 of her last 26 matches dating back to a 4th-round loss to Jelena Ostapenko at the US Open last summer, and is on a 13-match winning streak against Top 20 players.

The 22-year old Pole held leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the second set, and thwarted a Svitolina come-back by breaking at 4-4, before serving out the win after saving a break point for 5-5.

“I felt like she played better in the second set,” Swiatek told reporters after the match. “It wasn’t that easy to just finish points and win points.

“I wanted to stay focused and proactive and, kind of, make decisions, but not too risky. I felt like we were both good in the longer rallies, so I needed to really push in the right time to make pressure. I think decision making and placement was the most important thing, I would say.”

For a spot in the Last 4, Swiatek will face No 6 seed Zheng Qinwen from China, the Australian Open finalist, who beat Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, 6-3 6-2.

While Swiatek is 5-0 against Zheng, she has lost a set in 3 of those matches, and their last meeting came just last month at the United Cup, weeks before Zheng reached her first major final in Melbourne, when the Pole eased to a 6-2 6-3 win.

“She’s progressing, but I felt, like, I still could play good tennis against her,” Swiatek said. “I don’t know about Australia because, I got to say, I didn’t see any of her match[es]. When I lost [in the 3rd-round to Linda Noskova], I just completely cut off any tennis in my life. So it’s hard for me to say.

“She’s at this moment in her career, I mean everybody is when they’re 21, 22, 23, when they’re improving a lot.”

Zheng reached her 3rd career WTA 1000 quarter-final by defeating Potapova in an hour 32 minutes.


Coco Gauff needed 3 sets and a spat with the umpire to get past Karolina Pliskova into the Last 8 in Dubai

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

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 2nd consecutive Dubai quarter-final.

Gauff, who turns 20 next month, says a row with the umpire fuelled her into beating the in-form Czech.

Rallying from a slow start, Gauff built a 4-2 lead in the second set before a lengthy back-and-forth exchange with chair umpire Pierre Bacchi, in which the American complained that he had called her serve at deuce out after Pliskova had returned it into the net.

Gauff was made to repeat her first serve, and went on to hold for a 5-2 lead.

“It’s OK. It’s just one point. That happens in tennis. Players make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes,” Gauff said in her on-court interview. “It, kind of, went upward from there for me.

“I was telling me to stay calm in the next point, and not let that be a turning point. Maybe I dragged it out longer than I needed to, but I did what I thought was best in the moment. I think it fuelled me!”

Pliskova claimed her first title since 2020 at Cluj Napoca, and reached the semi-final in Doha before withdrawing ahead of her scheduled semi-final match against Swiatek due to injury.

Gauff has now won 23 of her last 24 matches against players ranked outside of the Top 20, and has reached the quarters or better in 3 of her last 4 appearances in Dubai, where she advanced to the semi-final last year.

She saved 2 break points in the first game of the 3rd set before earning a decisive break with a forehand down the line to take a 5-3 lead.

While Pliskova earned 2 break points in the final game, Gauff pulled back to deuce with strong serving, and sealed the win on her 2nd match point with her unreturned serve.

“It definitely felt like a good win,” said Gauff. “Hopefully I can continue to use that to build my confidence going into the rest of this week.”


Anna Kalinskaya upset 9th-seed Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets to meet Coco Gauff for a place in the Dubai semi-finals

© Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Gauff set up a quarter-final match against this year’s Australian Open quarter-finalist Anna Kalinskaya, after the Russian upset No 9 seed Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, 6-4 7-5, in 93 minutes.

Playing on Court 1, Ostapenko, a two-time titlist already in 2024, fell to Kalinskaya, who is enjoying a strong season so far, having reached a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open last month to make her Top 40 debut.

Ostapenko entered the meeting with Kalinskaya carrying a 16-3 win-loss record for the season, with all 3 defeats coming at the hands of Victoria Azarenka.

The 25-year-old Russian, who has already played 5 matches this week, slid down the rankings due to injuries, and is sitting on the cusp still of having to play qualifying for the big tournaments, but she has reached her 3rd quarter-final at WTA 1000 level or above, following Guadalajara 2022 and the Australian Open 2024, with her 5th career Top 10 win, and second defeat of Ostapenko in as many meetings.


World No 4 Elena Rybakina had to battle hard to prevail over qualifier Magdalena Frech on Wednesday

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

In the lower half of the draw, Rybakina, the 4th seed from Kazakhstan, survived a tough challenge from Magdalena Frech, outlasting the Polish qualifier, 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4, after a 2 hour and 40 minute battle.

Rybakina is through to the Last 8 for the 5th time in 6 tournament appearances this season, the 2022 Wimbledon champion having scored 10 wins from 11 matches contested across 3 different cities in the last 14 days – a run that included a title in Abu Dhabi and a runner-up showing in Doha.

“I’m happy that I’m still winning the matches,” she said. “But I can see by the level that, of course, physically, and everything, it’s dropping a bit. I don’t know how much I can push, and how much I can recover in this half day.”

Frech, the World No 53, was up 5-3 in the opening set, and led 5-3 in the tiebreak, but Rybakina wiped both deficits to clinch the first frame in 65 minutes.

The Pole did not dwell on her missed opportunities, though, and raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set.

Serving at 2-5 down, Rybakina saved a trio of set points, but the 4th seed could not 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, Paolini, the Italian ranked 26, claimed the 10th Top 20 win of her career by knocking out 8th seed Maria Sakkari from Greece, 6-4 6-2, in an hour and 21 minutes, earning her a place in a WTA 1000 quarter-final for just the second time, having reached that stage in Cincinnati last summer.

“I feel really confident. I just don’t think about my opponent’s ranking. I just think about what I have to do on the court,” said Paolini, who dismissed 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia and former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in her opening two rounds in Dubai.


Marketa Vondrousova made light work of Liudmila Samsonova to set up a Last 8 contest with Sorana Cirstea

© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images

Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova has struggled in recent months but the 7th seed from the Czech Republic was dominant in dismissing 12th-seeded Liudmila Samsonova from Russia, 6-2 6-2, in 75 minutes to reach the quarter-finals.

Vondrousova, who surged past American Peyton Stearns in 3 sets in her opener and made short work of Samsonova, takes on Romanian Sorana Cirstea, a 3-6 6-3 7-5 winner over Donna Vekic from Croatia in the Round of 16.

In their 3 prior meetings, Cirstea has defeated Vondrousova twice, including their most recent match, 7-6 6-4, in the Last 16 of the Miami Open presented by Itau in March, 2023.


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