Barbora Krejcikova
Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in action against Jessica Pegula of the United States in the semifinal of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 24, 2023. Krejcikova won the match and will meet Iga Swiatek in the final. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Barbora Krejcikova is playing her cards close to her chest as she prepares to battle World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland in the women’s singles final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The Czech knocked out birthday girl Jessica Pegula in the semifinal on Friday. Earlier, Swiatek quelled the challenge of American Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2.

Krejcikova holds the edge after winning the last meeting against Swiatek in the final in Ostrava 2022, after losing the first two in Miami and Rome 2021.

“I’m definitely not going to tell you what I’m going to do tomorrow, how I beat her in Ostrava,” Krejcikova said when quizzed about her plans for Saturday.

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She said challenges bring out the best in her, and with luck in her favour, the world No. 30 and the 2021 Dubai finalist fancies her chances against top seed Swiatek.

“It’s always a huge challenge to play Swiatek, and I love challenges. I expect it to be really difficult because she’s in great form. I’m playing well as well. I think that I can find a plan to push her on the backfoot. I believe I have a chance,” the unseeded Czech said.

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Krejicikova was in no mood to give any birthday presents to Pegula, who could not find her momentum in the first set, losing 6-1 in 28 minutes. The American finally found her rhythm in the second set and managed to run close, but the Czech managed to hold serve until the 2021 French Open winner double-faulted to gift the set to Pegula.

Converting chances

In the third set, the 10-time doubles Grand Slam champion was back to her best, racing to a 6-0 win to set up a battle with Swiatek in the final.

“It was really a difficult match. I felt even though the first set was going my way, I knew she's going to level up her game. And she did and the games became really close. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convert my chances in the second. I know I still have a big chance in the third,” said the 27-year-old, who had a career-high ranking of No 2 in February 2022.

Improving every match

Krejickova has now beaten world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka and 3 Pegula en route to the final in Dubai, after spending nine hours and 22 minutes on the court, longest by any player in this tournament.

“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I think my game is improving with every match and I'm really happy that I beat No 2 and No 3, but tomorrow [Saturday] is going to be new day. I just have to sleep well and try to prepare the best way, because I'm going to be playing the best player in the world,” she added.

Change of fortunes

One of the biggest turning point for Krejcikova in this tournament is the change of fortunes at her favourite venue. The Czech arrived in Dubai on the back early exits, second and first rounds, in her past two tournaments.

“They were really close matches, but it just didn't go my way. I always felt that I'm playing well, but need a little more luck. Then I saved four match points in the second round against Daria Kasatkina and felt okay this is the luck I was waiting for. My game started to improve from then on,” she concluded.