Barbora Krejcikova
Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic celebrate with the trophy after beating Iga Swiatek of Poland in the final of WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 25. 2023. This was the sixth WTA title for the 2021 French Open champion. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Barbora Krejcikova doesn’t respect rankings and reputations. The unseeded Czech knocked out four top 10 players in a week to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday. Krejcikova, a French Open champion in 2021, reserved her best for the final to demolish World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-2 in 91 minutes.

Ranked 30 in the world, the Czech’s giant-killing act started with the defeat of World No. 8 Daria Kasatkina, and she followed it up with a win over compatriot Petra Kvitova. In her next three matches, Krejcikova downed the top three players: World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, World No. 3 Jessica Pegula of the United States and World No. 1 Swiatek in the final.

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The Czech, a former World No.2, became only the fifth player to defeat the top three at the same event, emulating Sabalenka, Americans Serena Williams and Venus Williams, and Steffi Graf of Germany. The Dubai title is Krejcikova’s sixth, and it’s the one she missed in 2021 after losing the final to Spaniard Garbine Muruguza. It will catapult the Czech to World No. 16 in the WTA rankings.

Top seed Swiatek has been imperious since her second-round defeat in the Australian Open. Continuing her dominance from the Qatar Open, the Pole hastily won her matches in Dubai with minimum fuss and without dropping too many games. But Krejcikova refused to be overawed by her rival’s stature and her laser-sharp groundstrokes to grind out a win.

“This title means a lot to me. It was a great win for me. I was improving with every single match. I’m happy with the result,” Krejcikova said after the match.

She also paid tribute to her rival Swiatek: “I really admire Iga for what she has done and what she’s doing. I have so much respect for her. To me, she’s a big inspiration.”

Krejcikova built her victory on her sound serve, which didn’t allow Swiatek any wiggle room. The Czech also put her rival’s serve under pressure and broke the top seed’s serve five times in the match. There’s little the Pole could do as the Krejicikova took total control, following up serves with crisp groundstrokes.

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Swiatek was on the back foot from the first game losing her serve as Krejcikova ran up a 3-1 lead. Although they traded two breaks each, Swiatek struggled to strike any rhythm on her groundstrokes, while the Czech never missed out on the chances, firing winners across the court and down the lone before serving out the first set.

Krejcikova survived an early spell of dominance from Swiatek in the second before taking control of the rallies and coming away with two breaks. That badly hurt the Pole, who struggled to stay in the match as more errors crept into her game. The Czech found more fluidity with her serves, sending down a few aces and came off better in the rallies as Swiatek’s accuracy and confidence deserted her.

The final turned out to be one of the easier matches for Krejcikova.