Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
Garbine Muguruza in quarter-final action at the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
March 11, 2021 – DUBAI, UAE: Garbine Muguruza reached her third Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-final on Thursday with a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory over third seed Aryna Sabalenka, and will next face 10th seed Elise Mertens, who survived a strong challenge from Jessica Pegula to win 5-7 7-5 6-0.
The second semi-final will be between unseeded pair Barbora Krejcikova and Jil Teichmann. Krejcikova took just 62 minutes to overwhelm tournament wild card Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-2, and Teichmann defeated another wild card, Coco Gauff 6-3 6-3.
In what was a high quality battle from start to finish, Sabalenka gained the early advantage over Muguruza when she saved two break points in the opening game and then broke to lead 3-1. The players exchanged breaks to start the second set, but a second break for Muguruza to lead 3-1 was enough to level the match. Muguruza then dominated the decider, winning five straight games from 1-2. Why was she able to take command so well after two closely contested sets?
“I tried to stick with what had worked in the second set, being more aggressive than her, to not be on the run and always in defence,” said ninth seeded Muguruza, who has won more matches this year than any other player on the WTA Tour and who also beat Sabalenka on her way to the Doha final last week.
“From the first point of the third set I was there. I could break her serve right away. I got broke back but I felt I was playing with a good game plan. I know she could also play some good points and knew I had to stay strong and fight until the end. I said there is only one set left and you have to give it all.”
Mertens had to toil for a draining two hours 47 minutes before finally overcoming Pegula. In a match of fluctuating fortunes, Mertens broke to lead 5-4 in the first set but Pegula not only broke at love to level at 5-5 but then took the set when Mertens double-faulted with Pegula leading 6-5.
The second set was also full of drama as Pegula led 5-2 and served for victory at 5-3 but was broken at love, and she failed to take advantage of three match points on her opponent’s serve at 5-4. Mertens then broke to lead 6-5 and served out to level the match. A deflated Pegula then had little left to give in the final set.
“It was a very tight first set,” said Mertens. “Second set I didn’t feel I was playing that badly. There were some close games so I tried to stay in the game because you never know what is going to happen. I was mentally prepared for a battle and of course she was too, but in the second set I tried to be a little more aggressive.”
In contrast to Mertens’ struggle, Barbora Krejcikova needed just 62 minutes to sweep aside tournament wild card Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-2
Although Krejcikova had not previously competed in the main draw in Dubai, and played only the 50th main draw match of her career in beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the quarter-finals, she has enjoyed outstanding success in doubles and in 2020 she came tantalisingly close to winning the doubles title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, surrendering the final in a match tiebreak.
“I think I did everything well today,” said Krejcikova. “I was serving good, I was returning well, I was just trying to go for my shots and trying to not let her get into the match. I was really consistent and calm, going for my balls and being patient. I’m just happy and proud that I played one of my best matches in the quarter-finals of such a big tournament.”
“Barbora Krejcikova thrilled us last year when she came so close to claiming the doubles title, and her game has continued to develop over the past year to also make her a contender in the singles,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Elise Mertens showed remarkable spirit to fight off an uncompromising challenge from Jessica Pegula, and there is no doubt that she can also be considered as a possible champion here this week.
“We also applaud Garbine Muguruza for such a fine performance against a very talented opponent, and Jil Teichmann for continuing her excellent form this year. The next two days will be interesting indeed as we wait to see who will emerge as our 2021 champion.”
Teichmann was able to avenge her two defeats by Gauff earlier this year, at the same time ending her opponent’s hope of celebrating her 17th birthday by competing in Saturday’s final. The Swiss left-hander had learned from her previous losses and was prepared.
“I definitely had a game plan and I’m glad it worked out,” said Teichmann, who since the recent Australian Open has reached a quarter-final and now a second semi-final. “It’s been an intense few weeks but in a good way. It’s my best result. I’ve won tournaments but they were smaller, and I’m going to enjoy this moment.”
“Although the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships has consistently attracted nearly every top player in the world, this is the 10th year in succession that at least one unseeded player has advanced to the semi-finals,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “This year, we are certain to have an unseeded player in Saturday’s final, underlining that no opponent can ever be taken lightly.”
The WTA1000 tournament continues until 13th March and then will be followed between 14th and 20th March by the equally exciting ATP event, headed by reigning US Open champion and world number four Dominic Thiem, who will be in competition for the title against 2021 Rotterdam champion and world number eight Andrey Rublev, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 2020 US Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, 2018 Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut, 2021 Montpellier winner David Goffin and 2020 US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 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.