Kalinskaya stuns ‘out of power’ Swiatek, meets Paolini in Dubai Open final - GulfToday

Kalinskaya stuns ‘out of power’ Swiatek, meets Paolini in Dubai Open final


Iga Swiatek and Anna Kalinskaya (R) in actions during the semifinal match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai on Friday. AP

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

In a stunning upset, qualifier Anna Kalinskaya defeated World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.

Swiatek blamed fatigue for her semifinal defeat to Kalinskaya, admitting: "I didn't have power anymore" to up her level during the match. "I didn't have power anymore to give even more, which doesn't happen often," admitted 22-year-old Swiatek.

The unseeded Russian took one hour and 42 minutes to beat top-ranked Pole 6-4, 6-4, and halted her opponents’ seven-match winning streak.

She will meet Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, who battled from the brink to beat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6(6) in another semi-final. Both Kalinskaya and Paolini have defied expectations throughout the tournament, and the final promises to be a thrilling battle for the title.

Swiatek held the upper hand early, surging to a 4-2 lead. But cracks began to show, with unforced errors handing Kalinskaya the momentum. Memories of Gauff’s defeat loomed large as Swiatek faced a match point down 40-15.

Anna-Kalinskaya Anna Kalinskaya celebrates after beating Iga Swiatek  in Dubai. AP

A fierce rally ensued, with Swiatek clawing back a break and threatening to level the set. Yet Kalinskaya rose to the occasion, saving break points and later wrapping up the match with a stunning drive volley.

The 25-year-old Kalinskaya, currently ranked at No. 40, continued her fairytale run by defeating top players like Jelena Ostapenko and Coco Gauff, before securing a remarkable victory against the top seed.

She became the sixth-lowest ranked player ever to reach the final in Dubai.

“Swiatek is a truly talented player,” Kalinskaya acknowledged, reflecting on her comeback victory from 4-2 down in the first set and her ability to withstand the Pole’s spirited fightback in the second.

“I understood that if I didn’t maintain composure and play aggressively, she would dominate the match. I’m pleased with my ability to execute that strategy and secure the win,” she added in her on court interview.

I’m extremely happy for my team; their support means a lot to me. A big thank you to my coach (Patricia Tarabini); it’s a pleasure working with them. Physically, I feel much better than last year, and having my fitness coach here watching gives me a lot of confidence to perform at such a high level.”

Earlier in the first semi-final, the Italian started strong, dominating the first set with aggressive baseline play, securing it 6-2. Momentum seemed to be firmly in her hands as she reached match point at 5-4 in the second set.

However, Cirstea, known for her resilience, dug deep. Echoing her previous day’s heroics, where she saved six match points against Marketa Vondrousova, she pulled off another stunning comeback, saving this one with a powerful backhand winner.

The drama continued as Cirstea broke Paolini’s serve at 5-5, serving for the set. Yet she couldn’t capitalize on five set points, and Paolini clawed her way back, forcing a tiebreak.

The tiebreak was a nail-biting affair, but Paolini held her nerve, saving another set point before finally sealing the victory.

“At 4-2, 40-15, I had an opportunity, but she began to elevate her game, hitting winners. Maybe I slowed down my movement a bit, said Paolini.

“In our previous encounters, the pattern was somewhat similar. I’d win the first set, encounter complications in the second, then regain momentum in the third. So, as the second set unfolded, I was hoping for a reset in the third, urging myself to maintain movement and depth in my play. Staying focused on the present was challenging.

“She tends to elevate her game when trailing in the score, aiming for more winners and a faster pace. I told myself to keep moving and continue hitting the ball hard, knowing that if I didn’t, she’d control the rallies and find winners before I could,” she added.

Meanwhile, Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez continued their dominant run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, securing their second final appearance of the season with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory over Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Laura Siegemund in the semifinals.

This win comes on the heels of their run to the finals in Linz earlier this month, highlighting their strong start to the 2024 season. In Dubai, they’ve dispatched Mirra Andreeva and Sofia Kenin, followed by an impressive upset against Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic, showcasing their ability to overcome challenges.

Standing in their way are either the second-seeded duo of Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe or the fourth-seeded pair of Storm Hunter and Katerina Siniakova.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

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