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AFP
February 21, 2020

Halep struggles to beat Jabeur in Dubai

Sports

AFP
February 21, 2020

DUBAI: Top seed Simona Halep needed four match points to see off Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur on Wednesday, squeezing into the quarter-finals of the WTA Dubai Championships 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (9/7).

The Wimbledon champion’s win came after Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza re-established order among the top seeds after a run of upsets at the Aviation Club.

World number three Pliskova strolled to a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of qualifier Kristina Mladenovic in barely an hour, before ninth seed Muguruza took almost two-and-a-half hours to get past Russian Veronika Kudermetova 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Three big names had exited the day before — defending champion Belinda Bencic, third seed Elina Svitolina and Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

The tense Halep match resembled a Fed Cup tie, with rival groups of Tunisian and Romanian fans out-shouting each other.

Wildcard Jabeur, ranked 45, came from 4-2 down in the final-set tiebreaker, missing a match point of her own when she netted a forehand.

Halep, who lost the opening set in 26 minutes, eventually claimed victory when Jabeur drove long.

In the quarter-finals, Halep faces Belarusian seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka who defeated doubles partner Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4, 6-3.

Pliskova pegged back Mladenovic after the Frenchwoman had earned only her first main-draw win of the season in the first round.

Muguruza went into her match two days after beating Kim Clijsters in the Belgian’s first Women’s Tennis Association match since 2012.

Muguruza will bid for a semi-final place, taking on Jennifer Brady, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 winner against 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.