Sara Errani held off a strong challenge to defeat Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4 and reach her second final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
In a match of long baseline rallies, each player struggled to gain the upper hand. Svitolina saved a break point in the opening game and was then broken for 2-1 when she netted a forehand, but Errani’s lead was short-lived as she double-faulted in the next game to drop her own serve. Svitolina then faced break point for the third straight game but held for 3-2, before Errani broke again at 3-3 on her fifth break point.
Errani was again unable to hold on to her lead as Svitolina levelled at 4-4, but Svitolina in turn dropped her serve for a third time to give Errani a 5-4 lead. This time Errani managed to retain her lead and hold serve to claim the opening set.
Svitolina continued to struggle in her service games in the second set, fighting off two break points to hold for 1-0, breaking for 3-1 but then allowing Errani to immediately break back and then break again to lead 4-3. In the closest of battles, Errani then had to recover from 0-30 as she closed out the match.
Errani will face either Barbora Strycova in Saturday’s final.
The depleted Dubai Tennis Championships lost another popular drawcard on Thursday as Czech Barbora Strycova defeated former number one Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
The quarter-final exit of the Serb drove another nail into the only WTA tournament in history to lose all eight seeds as none won a single match to exit in the first or second rounds.
The unfortunate turn of events, combined with the injury pullouts of the world’s top two players in Serena Williams and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, have hit the tournament hard.
In addition, Caroline Wozniacki withdrew citing injury but was in attendance this week at the Sports Illustrated awards in New York.
Reports indicate that the WTA will be looking into the pullouts from a tournament which also serves as a major sponsor of the Tour itself.
After her opponent won the hour-long first set with a comeback in the tiebreaker, Ivanovic came up short in a run of three breaks in the second set.
The 2008 French Open winner found herself trailing 3-5, with a return wide on the first of three Strycova match points marking the end a game later.
Strycova will Friday face Caroline Garcia for a place in the final after the 38th-ranked Frenchwoman beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4.
“It feels great, I’m happy about it. I’m happy the way I played,” the Czech said. “I’m playing Caroline tomorrow. She’s a young gun, I’m looking forward for that.
“I believed myself today, and I changed some things before I went on court. I lost my previous matches against Ana, so I had to change a little bit the return.
“I was trying to be aggressive because the conditions on this court are really fast.”
Sara Errani struggled through a match littered with 39 break point chances to post a difficult 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Madison Brengle on Thursday for a place in semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The Italian who played the 2013 final in Dubai against Petra Kvitova will Friday face off against Caroline Garcia after the 38th-ranked Frenchwoman beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4.
The top seeds had already crashed, the first time in WTA or ATP history that all eight seeds did not win a single match.
The 22nd-ranked Errani is the only player left who has ever made an impression in Dubai, with the remainder of the field all newcomers to potential success at the Aviation Club.
“She did not miss a ball,” Errani said. “It’s not easy to play against her. In the beginning there was a lot of wind.”
Errani fought from 1-4 down in the final set after starting off poorly by dropping the first to number 60 Brengle.
The Italian converted on ten of 22 break points while American Brengle converted seven of 17.
“It was difficult for me to play the ball, I could have lost easily, I just kept fighting.
“Just to be in the semi-final for me is an amazing result. I’ll try to play the next match, doing my best.”
Garcia recovered after two losses to Petkovic, who is playing this season with a new coaching and fitness team in place.
“You always have to fight and work hard against Andrea, she is big fighter, always trying to come back,” Garcia said.
“It was very difficult conditions, very windy. Sometimes it was not very nice tennis, not very rhythmic, but you have to stay focused and, just keep your tactics.”
Elsewhere in the quarter-finals Elina Svitolina of Ukraine beat USA’s Coco Vandeweghe 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.