Krejcikova subdues Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 in Dubai for first WTA 1000 title
Two former French Open champions took the court in Dubai with a title and 1000 ranking points on the line. World #1 and two-time French Open champion (2020 & 2022) Iga Swiatek from Poland, was hoping to win consecutive titles having triumphed in Qatar last week (d. Pegula).
The reigning US Open champion won 8 titles last season including two grand slams and ascended the rankings for the first time on April 4, 2022. In Dubai, the twenty-one-year-old had yet to drop a set in three matches having received a walkover from Karolina Pliskova in the quarters.
Barbora Krejcikova had an impressive week in Dubai dispatching four seeds including Daria Kasatkina who had four match points, Petra Kvitova, world #2 Aryna Sabalenka and world #3, Jessica Pegula. The twenty-seven year old from the Czech Republic won the French Open singles and doubles in 2021 and reached a career high ranking of #2 last February.
An all-court, all-surface player, she has amassed 7 grand slam doubles titles in addition to a gold medal in doubles at the 2020 Olympics. Her singles ranking dropped precipitously to #21 last season following an acute right elbow injury and is now #30.
She admirably returned to the winners circle last fall defeating Anett Kontaveit in the Tallinn Open final and the following week in her home country at the Ostrava Open, defeated Iga Swiatek in three to claim the title.
Swiatek with five titles at the 1000 level and twelve overall, led the head-to-head 2-1 winning both in 2021 on two surfaces (clay & hard). Krejcikova with five career titles, won the toss and chose to receive.
Swiatek appeared on edge from the start letting evaporate a 40-15 lead and dumped serve following two consecutive backhand winners from her opponent who consolidated the break at love for 2-0.
Swiatek made 4/6 first serves and despite donating a double fault, held to 30 for 1-2 while Krejcikova opened with an ace and held at love for 3-1. Although Swiatek gifted two backhand errors she did not panic and with two winners, held to 30 for 2-3.
Krejcikova faced triple break point following three unforced errors including a double fault and dumped serve and the reigning US Open champion returned the favor with three consecutive errors to give back the break.
Krejcikova serving with new balls, donated a slew of errors and after two deuce and a break point, dropped serve. Swiatek missed 3/4 first serves and gifted three consecutive errors including another double fault to give back the break for 4-5. Krejcikova opened the 10th game with an ace out wide and following three additional forehand errors from Swiatek, secured the set 6-4.
Swiatek left the court following the conclusion of the opening set but apparently took too long as she was issued a time violation upon her return. The world #1 was visibly irritated but managed to focus and hold to 30 for 1-0.
Krejcikova ripped a backhand down the line and an ace out wide for 30-0 but following three unforced errors, faced two deuce and two break points yet leveled with well-placed serves and a spectacular crosscourt backhand.
Swiatek opened the third game with her first ace and with another, held to 15 for 2-1 while Krejcikova once again struggled facing two break points but held courtesy of three consecutive errors from her opponent.
The reigning French Open champion never seemed to completely settle down and it cost her; following her third double fault and formidable returns from Krejcikova, dumped serve. Krejcikova opened the 6th with a fantastic forehand crosscourt and consolidated the break for 4-2 with a brilliant backhand down the line and monster serve out wide.
Swiatek was treading water. While her opponent was executing her game plan to perfection, she seemed incapable of making the requisite adjustments to get the upper hand. Even in the extended rallies, Krejcikova repeatedly found the angles and depth to put her opponent off balance. In the swing or seventh game, Swiatek led 40-15 but faced break point and dropped serve following two consecutive errors and an outstanding lob winner the Pole prayed was long.
Krejcikova served for the match up a double break and with two consecutive aces and an extraordinary inside-in forehand that landed on the baseline, clinched her first WTA 1000 title. She became the first Czech player to raise the trophy since Petra Kvitova in 2012.
It was a brilliant display of spot serving, deep returns and free-flowing groundstrokes. She finished with 6 aces to 1 double fault and won 70% of first and 57% of second serve points. She converted 5/6 break points and won an impressive 43% of first serve and 76% of second serve return points.
The Czech consistently dictated play and made her opponent uncomfortable. Krejcikova has now beaten the world #1 the last two times they played. Let’s hope the elbow holds up so these two French Open champions have the opportunity to do battle on the terre battue in Paris this May.