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 22, 2024

Veteran Sorana Cirstea dumps Vondrousova out of 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Sorana Cirstea

Unseeded Romanian will face unseeded Jasmine Paolini in WTA 1000 event semi-final after Italian’s quarterfinal opponent, world No. 4 Elena Rybakina, withdraws from competition after gastrointestinal illness blow

Dubai, UAE—February 22, 2024: Sorana Cirstea produced the comeback of her career to dump world No. 8 Marketa Vondrousova out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships today.

The Romanian, who made her Dubai debut 15 years ago, saved six match points as she veered from the brink of heavy defeat to remarkable victory in front of an enthralled Centre Court crowd at Dubai Tennis Stadium. To complete the comeback, Cirstea, 33, also becomes the Dubai WTA event’s oldest-ever semi-finalist.

The early stages of the match demonstrated few signs it would evolve into a three-set epic. After holding serve in the opening game, Cirstea nonchalantly missed a straightforward overhead at breakpoint in Vondrousova’s first service game. Sensing her opponent’s tame squander of a potential early advantage, Vondrousova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, immediately upped the ante, winning five consecutive games enroute to clinching the opening set, 6-2.

The second set appeared on course to replicate the first, with Cirstea unable to hold serve as a dominant Vondrousova raced into a 4-0 advantage, which quickly turned into 5-1. Then, with the Romanian seemingly destined for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium showers, the match pendulum cannoned the other way as a defiant Cirstea started to battle back.

Having finally broken Vondrousova to reduce the gap to 5-3, Cirstea held serve consecutively for the first time in the match, and then broke the No. 7 seed again to level the set. The composed 33-year-old veteran displayed nerves of steel to save six match points in her wonderful renaissance.

However, as soon as she gained match control, Cirstea inexplicably lost her own serve again. The yo-yo encounter continued as Cirstea sealed a hat-trick of successive breaks to send the second set to a tiebreak, before jumping on Vondrousova’s visible dejection to steamroll the tiebreak, 7-1, and level the match.

As the classic tussle moved into a third hour, Cirstea, buoyed by her fightback, made it four consecutive breaks to move 2-0 up in the deciding set. The pair then traded service holds before Cirstea broke the 24-year-old Czech in the seventh game. With Centre Court reaching fever pitch, Cirstea served out a tense final game to seal a 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 victory.

“This has to the be the biggest comeback of my career,” said Cirstea, who will face world No. 26 Jasmine Paolini in Dubai’s WTA 1000 semi-final. “In the second set at 5-1 down, I wasn’t thinking about winning, I only wanted to make it nice for the public, make the match a bit longer, and try to play some nicer tennis. Somehow, I managed to get the win, I still don’t know how I managed it.

“My proudest thing is my longevity on tour. I love tennis, playing in front of crowds like this, competing, and feeling the adrenaline. These wins are the ones you work for. I could have been at home but here I am, fighting for a chance tomorrow. I want to thank all the support today—it felt like I was in Romania,” she added.

Blocking Cirstea’s route to the final is Italy’s Paolini, who received a walkover after world No. 4 Elena Rybakina was forced to withdraw from the WTA 1000 event owing to illness. Rybakina, who recently won the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open and reached the final of last week’s Qatar Open, was struck down by a gastrointestinal illness overnight.

“Unfortunately, I was not feeling well overnight. Since I am not feeling 100% ready to compete, I decided to pull out from my quarterfinal match today against Jasmine Paolini,” the 24-year-old said. “I want to say a big thank you to all the fans for their support this week and am looking forward to coming back next year.”

Paolini, who had eliminated two seeded players in three matches this week, said: “I think it gives me some confidence because, okay, she retired, but I played three great matches here with [Beatriz] Haddad Maia, [Leylah] Fernandez, and [Maria] Sakkari. We know they are all strong players. I’m happy because I started well this season in Melbourne. We keep working and keep trying to improve,” said the 28-year-old.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 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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