WTA

Halep fights back to tee up Brady semi-final in Dubai

By Sports Desk February 20, 2020

Simona Halep survived a scare against Aryna Sabalenka as she fought back from a set down to progress into the Dubai Tennis Championships semi-finals.

Halep, appearing for the first time since a run to the last four at the Australian Open, lost to Sabalenka in their most recent meeting - in Adelaide in January - but had won her prior two encounters with the world number 13.

Despite trailing in the first set, the world number two rallied in the second thanks to three breaks of serve, before cruising in the decider to wrap up a 3-6 6-2 6-2 win over her Belarusian opponent.

The Romanian, a Dubai champion in 2015, will now go up against Jennifer Brady, whose run of upsets continued as she overcame Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza to claim her third straight top-20 triumph.

Having already knocked out third seed Elina Svitolina and Marketa Vondrousova in previous rounds, Brady moved into the semis with a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 win.

It is the first time in Brady's career that the American has made it into the last four of a WTA Premier event, though she was not fully satisfied with her performance.

"I wasn't feeling my best," she said in quotes reported by the WTA's official website. "Maybe I didn't play my best tennis, but I just found a way to stay in there, compete and come out on top."

The other semi-final will see Elena Rybakina, whose fine run continued with a win over Karolina Pliskova, meet Petra Martic.

Dubai debutant Rybakina has started 2020 in fine form and dispatched world number three Pliskova on Thursday, completing a 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 success in one hour and 41 minutes.

It means Rybakina has made her fourth semi-final in five tournaments so far this year, with a tie against Martic - who beat Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 - her reward.

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  • Halep: Being defending Wimbledon champion for two years 'rare and special' Halep: Being defending Wimbledon champion for two years 'rare and special'

    Simona Halep is saddened by the cancellation of this year's Wimbledon, but described the honour of being defending women's singles champion for two years as "rare and special".

    Wimbledon was this week cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread to over a million people worldwide.

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    Halep clinched her second major title at the All England Club last year, crushing Serena Williams in straight sets in the final.

    In an interview with The Times, she said of not being able to defend her title this year: "Even though the cancellation of Wimbledon felt inevitable after the past few weeks, I had hoped it might somehow find a way to stay on the calendar as it is such a special tournament.

    "So Wednesday was a sad day and I thought back to some of the happiest emotions of my life last year at the All England Club.

    "I will miss going back to see Centre Court, the scene of that amazing final last year. I will miss seeing my name on the wall and all the nice things you get as a member of the club. I will miss the grass, a surface I finally fell in love with.

    "I will miss wearing white. And I will miss the feeling of belonging as part of the huge tradition that Wimbledon represents.

    "I know that Wimbledon looked at other opportunities to stage the championships. They looked at playing without spectators and postponing, but none of these options worked because of the nature of the surface and the high number of people involved. It makes sense to call it off now so that we are all mentally prepared for it, rather than to wait and let people down at the last minute.

    "The club sent me a nice email on Wednesday. I had previously been discussing with them the prospect of doing some filming as the defending champion in the lead-up to the tournament. Hopefully we can do those things next year instead.

    "In a positive way, I will have the rare and special honour of being a reigning Wimbledon champion for two years. I love the tradition in which the defending champion gets to open play on Centre Court, so I hope I can still do that next year as that will be something to savour."

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    "We have to let our governments and medical staff do their jobs, and when life starts returning to normal, then we can start to think about tennis."

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