Dubai: Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova led the march of former champions into the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
World No. 2 Halep, who reigned here in 2015, was joined by world No. 2 and 2013 champion Kvitova in the last eight of the competition.
Halep was methodical in her 6-3, 7-5 win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko after Kvitova once again battled against herself and a gutsy opponent in American qualifier Jennifer Brady before securing a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win.
Led by two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina — on court later in the evening against Garbine Muguruza — the Dubai field had five former champions this year. However, 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki pulled out with a viral illness before her first match on Monday, while 2016 champion Sara Errani, who was given a wild card, went down in three sets to Serbian qualifier Ivana Jorovic.
But Halep and Kvitova ensured they went through, although in contrasting styles. The Romanian came through the opening set against Tsurenko despite six service breaks. The 27-year-old, who went in with a 6-0 record against Tsurenko, then faced the prospect of a third set as her Ukrainian opponent served at 5-4 to level the match. But, the fighter that she is, Halep raised her game winning the final 12 points to take the set and match. Halep has been one of the busiest women on tour with a fourth round at the Australian Open, two Fed Cup wins and a run to last week’s Qatar Open as testimony.
“It’s a very nice feeling. It’s better for me because I didn’t want to play three sets so it was good that I could finish it,” Halep admitted.
“I think when I lost some games in the second set, it was because I played too much in the middle. So I started to use less pace, less power, and open the court more. She struggled in those directions.”
For Kvitova, it was a second straight day of three sets with both matches totalling nearly five hours on centre court. So naturally, the lanky Czech was more than pleased to come through after yet another draining encounter.
“It’s a huge relief right now,” Kvitova said. “I tried to be quicker today than yesterday. I did a little bit better by winning the first set, but the wind was just terrible today and it was really difficult to find a way out. Added to this, I couldn’t really serve well today. It’s been big struggle for me. I came here, I didn’t really have many days of practice. I had something different to do in my life. I wasn’t really that prepared for this tournament. But I’m happy that I was able to get those two wins, which I think it’s great when you are not playing your best and you still find a way to win it, which was yesterday and today as well.”
Halep will await the winner of Wednesday’s last match between eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka and Swiss girl Belinda Bencic, while Kvitova will be up against Viktoria Kuzmova, who rallied to overcome Sofia Kenin 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
The biggest upset of the day, however, came when Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh packed off world No. 7 Angelique Kerber of Germany 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 and set up a meeting with world No. 5 Karolina Pliskova, who overcame a stubborn American Alison Riske 7-6, 7-6.
Kristina Mladenovic, the French girl who had slayed world No. 1 Naomi Osaka on Tuesday, was sent packing 7-5, 7-5 by Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, while Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova took three sets to defeat Sofia Kenin, one of four Americans in the main draw.
Petra Kvitova bt Jennifer Brady 7-5, 1-6, 6-3; Simona Halep bt Lesia Tsurenko 6-3, 7-5; Carla Suarez Navarro bt Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-5; Viktoria Kuzmova bt Sofia Kenin 1-6, 7-5, 6-2; Su-Wei Hsieh bt Angelique Kerber 5-7, 6-4, 6-0; Karolina Pliskova bt Alison Riske 7-6, 7-6.