Kalinskaya slays Swiatek to reach Dubai decider

BECOMING just the second qualifier in history to make a WTA 1000 final, Russian Anna Kalinskaya is on cloud nine. The world number 40 was top seed in the qualifying draw at the Dubai Tennis Championships, and has now won seven matches in a row over the past week to reach the decider, with the latest being world number one, Iga Swiatek.

The huge upset was on brand for the tournament, with spectators having seen all the top seeds – Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, Marketa Vondrousova and Maria Sakkari – all bow out to unseeded players, while Elena Rybakina withdrew from her quarter final due to gastro. Though that lends itself to the theme of the hardcourt tournament, few would have seen the comprehensive 6-4 6-4 result coming.

Power players can worry the world number one, and Kalinskaya is just that. Though she only served the one ace to Swiatek’s five for the match, she won 64 and 50 per cent of her first and second serve points off a 68 per cent clip. While the Pole’s first serve percentage was rock solid (67 per cent), she only won seven of 20 off her second serve (35 per cent) and was broken four times from seven chances.

By comparison, the Russian qualifier dug deep to save nine of 11 break point opportunities for the top seed, and came away with an additional break in each set to take home the victory in straight sets. The match lasted an hour and 42 minutes, with just seven points separating the players in the semi-final.

The results snapped Swiatek’s seven-game winning streak which stemmed back to her title in Doha, as well as it being the world number one’s just second loss since September last year, winning 24 of her past 26 matches. After trailing 2-4 in the first set, Kalinskaya won the last four games of the first set, then got up in the second, making it a memorable comeback.

Kalinskaya will now set her sights on fellow unseeded talent Jasmine Paolini – the one responsible for Sakkari’s demise as well as advancing past Rybakina – having beaten her a month ago at the Australian Open in straight sets.

Paolini reached the decider following a straight sets win over Romanian Sorana Cirstea. No doubt her Romanian opponent was still catching air from coming back against seventh seed Vondrousova at 6-2 5-1 down and it showed in the first set. The more rested Italian cruised to a 6-2 lead, and while Cirstea forced it to a tiebreaker mirroring her quarter finals win, could not get up as Paolini won 8-6 in that tiebreaker.

The Italian world number 26 forced five breaks from 13 points, two more than her opponent, while also winning 59 and 50 per cent of her first and second serve points off a 71 per cent clip. Cirstea won 55 and 41 per cent by comparison, and eventually bowed out in an hour and 57 minutes.


[Q] Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) defeated [Q] Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4 6-4
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 6-2 7-6

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