Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 23, 2024

Qualifier Kalinskaya stuns Swiatek to set up historic final vs. Italian Paolini in Dubai

World No. 40 Kalinskaya beats world No. 1 in straight sets to set up final with Paolini as both players prepare to make their WTA 1000 final debuts

Dubai, UAE—February 23, 2024: Qualifier Anna Kalinskaya produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday night by beating world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in straight sets under the lights of centre court and become the first qualifier to reach the final of the emirate’s WTA tournament.

Kalinskaya, ranked No. 40 in the world and making her main draw debut in Dubai after coming through two rounds of qualifying, produced yet another composed performance to progress past the four-time Grand Slam champion, 6-4, 6-4, and reach her first WTA 1000 final. After beating a trio of Top-10 ranked players en route, she will now meet Jasmine Paolini in Saturday’s final.

Swiatek’s defeat meanwhile was only her second in 26 matches, dating back to last September’s WTA 500 event in Tokyo. The four-time Grand Slam winner never looked totally comfortable in what was a first meeting with Kalinskaya, needing to save a break point in her very first service game and double-faulting in the seventh after breaking in the sixth. In the ninth and facing a breakpoint with the set poised at 4-4, the Pole’s powerful forehand down the line crept wide and she found herself trailing for the first time this week. Her opponent, who had secured her first career Top-5 win the previous evening over American Coco Gauff, calmly held serve to take the first set.

Swiatek continued to show signs of inconsistency in the second set, finishing the match with 18 unforced errors and converting only two of 11 break points. She later conceded she had ran out of energy: “I felt like I didn’t have power anymore to give even more. I felt out of control a little bit because of that. Usually when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game.”

Kalinskaya in contrast broke twice more to lead 5-2 and while Swiatek rallied to pull it back to 4-5, another missed forehand saw a chance to square the set go abegging and the qualifier was a picture of composure to confidently volley herself into the final.

“I knew if I didn’t stay aggressive and move a lot, she would destroy me,” said Kalinskaya, who only dropped one set this week despite also facing world No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko and world No. 3 Coco Gauff. “My plan was to maintain aggression throughout. I’m thrilled with the win, Iga’s truly unbelievable. Having had the chance to play against her, I’m certain we’ll have many more matches in the future.

“I’m super happy to be in the final. I can’t believe it yet. But [Saturday] is just another day. I’m looking forward to playing my first big final.”

That final will pit her against Paolini, the qorld No. 26 who she defeated in straight sets in the Australian Open Round of 16 last month. Her Italian opponent progressed after defeating Sorana Cirstea in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6(6) earlier in the evening. The world No. 26 reached her first WTA 1000 final and became just the fourth Italian to do so, but the feat did not come without its hurdles, with a determined Cirstea in her path.

The Romanian, who completed a remarkable comeback against the reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals, couldn’t get going in the first set, but a set down and staring down the barrel of a 4-1 deficit, broke back to deny Paolini a fast track to the finals. The Italian immediately returned the favour, but Cirstea, showing the same never-say-die attitude that saw her through the quarterfinals, broke back again. Surviving a match point, the 33-year-old brought the second set to a tiebreak but was edged 8-6 by a defiant Paolini.

“If you told me at the start of the week that I would be in the top 20, I would’ve said you are crazy,” said Paolini after the match. “But yeah, now I’m in the final, so let’s enjoy. I’m enjoying the week and I hope to enjoy the match and play my best game.”

Of Kalinskaya, Paolini added: “She’s moving really well and she’s playing really deep. When I played against her in the Australian Open, she was also returning really deep and I couldn’t start the point well. She was really consistent, and not making many mistakes. If you want to beat her, you have to play deep and to try not to make many mistakes, but also to try to hit winners; to hit the ball and to push her away from the court, because if not, she’s going to move you.”

Meanwhile, the doubles final promises to be an intriguing encounter between No. 4 seeded Storm Hunter and Katerina Siniakova against the No. 3 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez.

Melichar-Martinez and Perez were first to book their place in Saturday evening’s final in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium with an assured display in seeing off Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Laura Siegemund in Friday’s opening semi-final. The American-Australian partnership functioned from the off, with a winning blend of finesse and power to see off their opponents, 6-3, 6-2, in little over an hour on Centre Court.

Hunter and Siniakova meanwhile overcame last year’s US Open winners in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, with an assured display to book their place in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Tickets for both the women’s WTA tournament and the men’s ATP event remain available to purchase at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.

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