Final: (1) Simona Halep vs (17) Karolina Pliskova
A first time champion will be crowned on Saturday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. First time finalists in Dubai, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova will go head to head for the first time in their careers in what promises to be a highly competitive match between two in form young ladies.
Simona Halep has improved match by match this week in Dubai. The top seed eased through her opening two matches, thumping a fatigued Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-0 before strolling past Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3. The Romanian was forced to work much harder for her next two victories, fighting past Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 1-6 7-5 in a highly competitive quarter-final before coming from a set down to defeat Caroline Wozniacki.
Simona Halep advanced to her second final of the year with a relatively comfortable 2-6 6-1 6-1 victory over a wayward Caroline Wozniacki in friday’s second semifinal. Simona made a poor start to the match, hitting 16 unforced unforced errors in an untidy opening set. The Romanian finally found her range in the second set as Wozniacki’s level dramatically deteriorated. Simona running away with the match as the Dane finished the match with an uncharacteristically high 26 unforced errors to just 11 winners.
Simona will need to play much better tennis if she is defeat an in form Karolina Pliskova on Saturday. The top seed didn’t serve particularly well in her victory over Wozniacki, broken several times and hitting only 2 aces. A similar serving performances against Karolina will leave her in enormous trouble.
Karolina Pliskova has had an outstanding week in Dubai, reaching a career high ranking of world number 12. Pliskova has continually defied the odds, causing three upsets in a row to reach her second premier level final of the year.
Karolina cruised through her opening two matches this week, recording straight set victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. The hard hitting Czech then battled past both Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova in tight three set encounters.
Karolina’s best victory of the week came in the semifinals where she recorded an extremely hard fought 6-4 5-7 7-5 victory over fellow young gun, Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard seemed to be in control of the match in the third set, creating several chances to break Karolina’s serve. However as has so often been the case this week, Karolina saved some of her best tennis for when she was break point down, saving all five break points she was faced with.
Serving for the match at 6-5 in the final set, Karolina found herself down 0-40. The ever cool Czech didn’t panic, calmly saving three break points before going on to serve out the match.
This will be the first ever encounter between Simona and Karolina, the first of many. The contrast in styles should lead to fascinating final between two of the tours most in form players.
Karolina’s form this week has been the more impressive, Karolina has defeated five quality opponents, the bigger the challenge, the better she has played. Simona has done what she has had to do, the Romanians biggest challenge of the week came in the quarter-finals against Makarova, apart from that Simona has been relatively untroubled.
The biggest question mark leading into this match is, how much energy does Karolina have left? It’s been a long three weeks for the her, playing Fed Cup in Canada before reaching the semi-finals in Antwerp and now playing 5 matches in testing Dubai heat. Simona is undoubtedly the fresher of the two.
I have written Karolina off twice this week, I’m not going to make the same mistake again here. Karolina has played outstanding tennis this week and is arguably the form player on tour.
The powerful Czech certainly has the game to trouble Simona, her serve has been extremely hard to crack this week and her return game has been just as impressive. Simona’s serve will sit up for Karolina and I think she will be able to break enough times to prevail and claim the biggest title of her career.
Prediction: Karolina Pliskova to defeat Simona Halep in 2 sets