Bencic stuns Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

Published by AP

Belinda Bencic celebrates her victory over Simona Halep in the Dubai Tennis Championships quarterfinals, a win taking her record against top-five opponents to 8-6 (Getty Images)
Belinda Bencic continues her impressive run in Dubai, overcoming Simona Halep in three sets to set up a semifinal meeting with Elina Svitolina.

Unseeded Belinda Bencic has rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-2 to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalise on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total.

Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row.

“I’m just really happy. I’m back. I knew it was still in me, even after the injuries,” Bencic said.

“You cannot just come back like this and play (snapping fingers). Otherwise, it wouldn’t show how good tennis is.

“I had to work my way back. I knew it was in me, but I’m happy that I could finally show it.”

Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

“It was really difficult physically,” the world No.2 said. “I was tired. After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger.”

With the victory, Bencic – a former world No.7 – improves her record against top-five opponents to 8-6. She is 8-3 in her last 11 matches against top-five opposition.

She will next face two-time defending champion Elina Svitolina, who brushed aside Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova few problems in winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0 to book her spot in the last four.

Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win.

She will next face  Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4 1-6 7-5.

It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

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“I felt I had to apologise to Pliskova because I was crying and screaming so much,” said the 33-year-old after reaching her first Premier-level tour semifinal.

“It was not easy to come back. I say to myself, ‘Okay, if she (does) not ace me, I hit the ball so much harder than before, then she cannot hit a winner.'”

Hsieh fired a backhand down the line to earn the break that saw her claim the first set lead over the Australian Open semifinalist.

Pliskova, who missed nine chances to break her opponent, roared back in the second set to level the match without facing a single break point.

The 26-year-old surged to a match-winning position at 5-1 but the Czech’s errors piled up allowing Hsieh to break back twice for 5-5, and a wild backhand from Pliskova whren trailing 6-5 confirmed Hsieh’s triumph.

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