The WTA 1000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships took place this past week and Barbora Krejcikova reminded the tennis world of what she is capable of as she emerged as champion after a stunning display in the final where she toppled World No. 1 Iga Świątek 6-4, 6-2. “When you play with Iga, you have to suffer, otherwise you’re not going to win because she’s everywhere,” said Krejcikova after the victory. “She plays great shots. She likes to play long rallies. So you have to suffer. I don’t mind that.”
En route to the unexpected title in Dubai, Krejcikova defeated the current top three players in the world in Świątek, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula.
It wasn’t the first time that Krejcikova had defeated Świątek while she held the No. 1 ranking. Last Fall at the Ostrava Open in her native Czechia, Krejcikova also emerged with the win by a tighter margin in a 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3 result on home soil.
Krejcivova won the singles title at the French Open in 2021 but has struggled with consistency over the past year. An elbow injury last season also contributed to her challenges. But while her singles game was still finding its range, Krejcikova was still racking up the wins in doubles where she has captured the past four consecutive major tournaments that she has played along with partner Katerina Siniakova. Krejcikova is currently ranked No. 2 in the WTA doubles rankings.
The Czech star is now up to No. 16 in singles and is coincidentally one of 16 active Grand Slam winners on the WTA Tour. She is now playing tennis at a level that very much will make her one to watch when we approach Roland Garros this spring.
Świątek meanwhile maintained her dominance over most the field with her strong play leading up to the final. She breezed through the early rounds while showing no mercy whatsoever towards her opponents. Świątek defeated Leylah Annie Fernandez 6-1, 6-1 and then Liudmila Samsonova 6-1, 6-0 in the opening two rounds. Then (as if she needed the break!) she received a walkover into the semifinal after Karolina Pliskova withdrew ahead of their match.
Świątek dropped only nine games prior to the final and in the process set a record for the fewest number of games lost enroute to a WTA 1000 level final during her week in Dubai. She looked absolutely unbeatable before running into a red hot Krejcikova.
In terms of Canadians in the tourney, it was unfortunately a short stay in the singles draw for our two entries. Bianca Andreescu once again faced a tough spot in the draw, this time up against Wimbledon champion and recent Aussie Open finalist Elena Rybakina. Rybakina prevailed in two sets, though Andreescu did have some looks in the second before being defeated 6-3, 6-4 by the ninth seed.
Leylah Annie Fernandez had a tough test early as well as she had to play Swiatek in the second round. As mentioned earlier, the Canadian could only come away with two games the entire match, but this had more to do with her opponent’s unbelievable level of play than her own shortcomings.
In doubles, Fernandez made it to the quarter-finals with partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands before falling to the eventual champs Veronika Kudermetova and Liudmila Samsonova.
Kudermetova and Samsonova captured the doubles title in Dubai with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 10-1 win over sisters Latisha and Hao-ching Chan. Impressively for Kudermetova, she defended her title from a year ago where she won in Dubai with Elise Mertens as her partner. Also remarkable was the fact that the title was a first for Samsonova in doubles while playing in her first-ever doubles final.
Read also: The Curious Case of Jessica Pegula
Also in doubles, it was notable that the Dubai tournament marked the end of the road for former World No. 1 Sania Mirza who is now retiring after an impressive career that saw her capture Grand Slam doubles titles at the Aussie Open, Wimbledon and the US Open along with three mixed doubles titles at the majors and two year-end WTA Championships.
TENNIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Dubai Open was one of the first professional tennis events that I ever covered, back in 2009 and it is definitely a player-friendly (and media friendly) environment. Since that time there has been a large amount of money put into promoting the sport there with strong player fields at tournaments in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
With an ideal climate during our winters back here in Canada, the city of Dubai has in particular also become an off-season tennis hotbed with the likes of Roger Federer making it a training base during his playing career. Tennis fans will likely remember Federer and American tennis legend Andre Agassi hitting on top of the helipad at the Burj Al Arab Hotel for a promotional piece back in 2005.
TENNIS CANADA BRACKET CHALLENGE
Back again in 2023 is the Tennis Canada Bracket Challenge where tennis fans have the opportunity to test their predictive skills in picking the winner of each match in the draw for every WTA 1000 and ATP Masters 1000 event of the year.
This past week I started well (in first place prior to the semifinal!) with bold picks like Pliskova over Sakkari, Keys beating Garcia as well as eventual winner Krejcikova over Kasatkina and Kvitova in the early rounds. You’ve got to take some risks to separate yourself from the pack although I went a bit overboard when I chose Coco Gauff over Iga Świątek in the semis!
Sign-up now so that you can participate in the upcoming Indian Wells tournament and compete for some terrific prizes courtesy of Tennis Canada! I’m currently sitting in 69th place – let’s see how you can do!