Dubai: Qualifier Elena Gabriela Ruse overcame nerves and shaky moments to make it through to her best career performance so far with a 6-1, 6-4 win over a better-ranked Danka Kovinic to enter the semi-finals of the 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being played at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa late on Thursday.
Floating through the first set effortlessly 6-1 with successive breaks in the third, fifth and seventh, Ruse encountered an all-too familiar ghost from the past as she wavered in her concentration while being 3-0 up in the second. Her 26-year-old opponent from Montenegro took her chances and a break in seventh and a held serve was enough to tie the set 4-4.
All too familiar with similar situations from the past, Ruse held and then broke her 77th-ranked opponent to seal her spot in Friday’s semi-finals where she will play fifth seed Katerina Siniakova.
“This win is so big for me as I have never figured in such a big tournament. It was high time I learnt from past mistakes and got over a very important hurdle in my game while re-focusing and staying strong mentally,” Ruse told Gulf News.
“As we approached the end of the second set and with a break up I was already thinking of the semi-finals. I’ve done this same mistake in the past and today I told myself to wake up and focus on this match first. Luckily, everything fell in place and here I am in one step away from the final,” the 23-year-old Romanian added.
Playing in only her second Grand Slam at Wimbledon last year, Ruse recollected how she had squandered six match points before losing to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in their first round encounter. “That defeat did flash before me. I was a bit shaky and the nerves did set in. But I knew I had to dig in deep from past experiences and I decided to stay firm, focused and strong so that there would be no repeat,” she smiled.
Ruse’s semi-final opponent also went through some anxious moments before carving out a 6-2, 7-5 win against Great Britain’s Heather Watson earlier in the day, while Polona Hercog remained the highest seed in the singles when the second-seeded Slovenian went past seventh-seeded Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-4.
The last semi-final slot was booked by Sorana Cirstea when the Romanian battled through three sets past her Czech opponent Barbora Krejcikova 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3 in Thursday’s last match. Cruising in the final set with a break in the second game, Cirstea had a slight wobble to be broken in the fifth to be tied 3-3. But the Romanian recovered and a break in the eighth was enough to serve out for set and match in two hours and 28 minutes.
The semi-finals will be worked off on Friday with the doubles starting off at 12 noon followed by the first singles semi-final at 1.30 pm at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa tennis courts.
(Quarter-finals of the women’s singles at the 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being played at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa) Polona Hercog bt Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-4; Katerina Siniakova bt Heather Watson 6-2, 7-5; Elena Gabriela Ruse bt Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-4; Sorana Cirstea bt Barbora Krejcikova 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3.(Women’s Doubles quarter-finals) Ekaterine Gorgodze/Ankita Raina bt Kirsten Flipkens 7-6 (3), 6-1; Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov/Kaja Juvan bt Dalma Galfi/Tereza Mihalikova 7-6 (2), 6-3; Anna Blinkova/Heather Watson bt Arantxa Rus/Rosalie Van Der Hoek 7-5, 6-4.