Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic will face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in Saturday’s WTA Dubai final after the Czech came from a set down to beat unseeded Taiwanese Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6 6-2 6-4 in the first semifinal.
Bencic later stepped closer to ending a four-year title drought when she squeezed past defending champion Elina Svitolina 6-2 3-6 7-6(3), having trailed 5-3 in the final set.
“She’s in great form,” Bencic said of Kvitova. “Maybe this tournament I’m also in great form.
“It will be a tough final. The final is always two great players. I’m very happy to play her.”
The @DDFTennis semifinals are set. Who wins the title from here?
— Tennismash (@tennismash) February 22, 2019
Svitolina, a winner of the past two Dubai tournaments, reached the last four without dropping a set, yet lost her serve early and made 10 unforced errors as she surrendered the first set without carving out a single break point against Bencic.
The 21-year-old Swiss, won 85 per cent of her first-serve points as she dominated the opening set, but Svitolina turned the tables in the second. The Ukrainian broke Bencic early before running away with the second set to force a decider.
Both players stayed on serve in the third until Svitolina broke to take a 5-3 lead, but Bencic then won eight points in a row to regain the upper hand.
Svitolina saved three match points to send the contest into a tiebreak and this time Bencic made no mistake, winning four of the last five points to book her spot in the final.
Earlier, Australian Open runner-up Kvitova lost the opening set against Hsieh but made an astute tactical adjustment midway through the match that changed the course of the contest.
The Taiwanese, who knocked out Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova on the way to the semi-finals, soon had the world No.4 on the back foot.
But Kvitova, the champion in Dubai in 2013, switched things up in the second set and raced into a 4-1 lead before claiming the set to force a decider.
The pair began the third set with an exchange of service breaks, but Kvitova broke again and then held her serve to get in front before wrapping up the win.
“She really didn’t give me anything for free,” Kvitova said.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Having won the Sydney title the week before her run at Melbourne Park, Kvitova has built a 17-3 record to open season 2019.
She owns a winning 3-0 record over Bencic, beating the young Swiss in their most recent meeting in the third round of the Australian Open last month.
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