Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday saw her 13-0 undefeated start to the season come to an end as she squandered a 6-0, 3-1 lead in a quarter-final defeat to Barbora Krejcikova at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Sabalenka had not lost a match this year going into the clash, winning two titles in Australia last month, including a maiden Grand Slam trophy, but that streak was snapped as Krejcikova scooped a 0-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 victory to set up a semi-final clash with American third seed Jessica Pegula.
The 24-year-old Belarusian was to fly home to Miami before heading to Indian Wells, where she hoped to recapture her title-winning form.
“Probably there will be less attention [now that the streak is over]. It doesn’t matter, I lost it,” Sabalenka said after the defeat. “Barbora deserved it, she played great tennis, and I will just keep working and keep getting better; make sure that Indian Wells will be a better result.”
Many were predicting a Dubai final between the world’s top two, Iga Swiatek and Sabalenka, who has openly declared her ambition to dethrone the Polish world No. 1.
“I really would like to see that happening [playing finals against Swiatek], but first of all I have to work hard and I have to focus on myself,” Sabalenka said. “You cannot predict anything in tennis, especially women’s tennis, but I really want to see that I’ll work really hard to make sure that this is going to happen.”
Krejcikova — a runner-up in Dubai in 2021 — lost the first seven games of the contest and needed 44 minutes before she finally got on the board, holding serve for 1-1 in the second set.
The 2021 French Open champion fell behind 1-3, but clawed her way back, forcing a decider.
Krejcikova kept up the momentum as she broke Sabalenka twice for a 5-1 advantage and she knocked out the world No. 2 in lass than two hours.
It was the Czech’s first win over Sabalenka in three meetings and it earned her a showdown with Pegula, who received a walkover into the final four after her opponent Karolina Muchova withdrew from the tournament with an abdominal injury.
“I was just fighting for every ball. I’m never going to leave a fight in any match that I’m playing, any score that is there. Definitely the Czech fans, they really helped,” Krejcikova said.
Meanwhile, Coco Gauff said she would approach her semi-final against Swiatek with “no pressure,” despite her 0-5 losing record against the world No. 1.
“She’s playing at the top of her game. Well, I don’t know, because last year we said the same thing. She’s playing really well,” said Gauff of Swiatek, who has dropped a mere eight games in her past five matches. “It’s going to be a challenge, but, to be honest, I think it’s a good matchup just to see where I can maybe improve on. There’s no pressure for me.”
At the Merida Open Akron at Yucatan Country Club in Mexico, Taiwan’s Wu Fang-hsien and Wang Xinyu of China defeated third seeds Eri Hozumi of Japan and Anastasia Detiuc of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the semi-finals of the doubles.
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