Cirstea epic comeback leaves crowd stunned

THERE are comebacks, and then there is whatever Sorana Cirstea managed to do against seventh seeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Vondrousova had a match point in the second set, and would go on to squander six match points across the course of that set, only for Cirstea to find a way to win from the depths of defeat and clinch the 2-6 7-6 6-2 victory.

On the surface, the scoreline might read like a match where Cirstea had a disappointing first set and then went toe-for-toe with Vondrousova in the second, before powering away with that momentum in the third. Except the unseeded Romanian had no right to win the second set, and Vondrousova will be thinking about the match for some time.

Vondrousova had her first match point when she was 6-2 5-1 up. That is not a typo, she was a double break up in the second set, having lost just three games for the match thus far and was one point away from a 6-2 6-1 cruisy victory and a place in the WTA 1000 semi-finals.

Instead, Cirstea had other ideas, breaking twice and winning the next four consecutive games to level the score at 5-5, only for Vondrousova then to find her feet and break back to go 6-5 up. But yet again the Czech could not find a way to serve out the match as the Romanian kept powering her way to get back even.

She successfully broke back, then dominated the tiebreak 7-1, and from there, it was evident hte momentum was truly in the underdog’s favour. The 33rd ranked Cirstea advanced through to her third career WTA 1000 semi-finals in two hours and 41 minutes.

“This has to be the biggest comeback of my career,” Cirstea said post-match. “To be honest, at a set and 5-1, I wasn’t thinking about winning any more. I was like, at least make it nice for the public, at least make it longer and give them a bit nicer tennis. I still don’t know how I managed it.”

Cirstea advanced through to the final four and will take on a well-rested Jasmine Paolini after the Italian received a bye in the semi-finals following the withdrawal of in-form Kazakh and fourth seed, Elena Rybakina. The Wimbledon champion claimed gastrointestinal illness as the reason for the withdrawal, with one of Paolini and Cirstea now guaranteed a spot in the final.

Cirstea’s wi was not the only upset though, as world number 40 and Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya shook off injury herself to defeat third seed Coco Gauff, 2-6 6-4 6-2 in two hours and 17 minutes. Denying fans a chance to see two top three players go at it in the semi-finals, Kalinskaya looked closer to match retirement than victory after the opening set, but somehow found a way to get back into the match.

The 25-year-old will now take on the toughest task in world tennis, with the Russian facing top seed Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals. The world number one defeated Chinese talent Qinwen Zheng for the sixth time in as many meetings, knocking off the sixth seed, 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 26 minutes, and is now the only seeded player remaining in the Dubai draw.


[1] Iga Swiatek (POL) defeated [6] Qinwen Zheng (CHN) 6-3 6-2
[Q] Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) defeated [3] Coco Gauff (USA) 2-6 6-4 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated [4] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) W/O
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) defeated [7] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 2-6 7-6 6-2

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments