Dubai SF #1: Sara Errani vs Elina Svitolina
The first semi-final of the day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships promises to be an extremely hard-fought affair when two of the fiercest competitors on tour go head-to-head, Sara Errani and Elina Svitolina. This is a massive opportunity for both, Sara has not reached a premier level final since early 2014 whilst Svitolina will be aiming to reach her first premier level final after several semi-final appearances at the premier level. It will be interesting to see who makes the most of this great opportunity to advance to the final in Dubai.
Sara Errani has made the most a relatively favourable draw to advance to the semi-final stage in Dubai. The Italian defeated a pair of qualifiers in her opening matches, recording a straight set win over Saisai Zheng in the first round before claiming a surprisingly comfortable straight win over Yaroslava Shvedova. Errani’s biggest struggle came at the quarter-final stage where the Italian battled past Madison Brengle 4-6 6-1 6-4. Errani looked down and out in the deciding set when she trailed 1-4 and was seemingly struggling physically. However, Errani is nothing if not a fighter and as is expected the Italian did not give up and ultimately won the last 5 games of the match to advance to the final four.
Elina Svitolina is through to another premier level semi-final, a great result for the Ukrainian who is playing in her first tournament under the guidance of Justine Henin. Svitolina was far too good for Jana Cepelova in the first round before recording her fifth top 10 victory by defeating Garbine Muguruza in straight sets. Svitolina’s passage through to the semi-finals was confirmed on Thursday courtesy of a 6-4 1-6 6-2 win over CoCo Vandeweghe. Svitolina lost her way through the middle stages of the match but managed to find a better level of tennis when it mattered most to win the last 6 games of the match against a fading CoCo Vandeweghe who seemed to run out of energy.
Sara Errani won the only previous encounter between the pair, a 6-2 6-3 win on an indoor hard court in Paris back in 2014. These two are extremely evenly matched, both have similar strengths and weaknesses and both will head into this match believing that they should win this.
I’m going to give the slight edge to Errani heading into this match. On paper, it looks like Svitolina has had a good week but on closer inspection the truth is that she has benefited from her opponents playing very poor tennis. Svitolina has hit a combined 29 winners and 90 unforced errors in her first 3 matches, that kind of form isn’t going to get the job done against a determined Errani. The Italian loves to grind out victories against opponents like Svitolina who is unlikely to hit Errani off the court. I expect Errani to be too strong for Svitolina on this occasion.