Iga Swiatek returns the ball to Coco Gauff (unseen) during their Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship semi-final match on Friday.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
Staying on course for a second title in as many weeks, world No.1 Iga Swiatek breezed past Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2 to reach her maiden final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday.
The Pole, who has not lost a set to the American in six meetings to date, took one hour and 27 minutes to secure a spot in the final on her third appearance in the WTA 1000 tournament.
Swiatek continued her imperious form this month after winning the Doha title, where she dropped just five games last week.
She will face Barbora Krejcikova in the final, who stunned third seed Jessica Pegula in a thrilling semi-final clash.
“Coco (Gauff) is a great player, and I knew it was going to be tough, especially after last year, when we played like five times – it’s always tough, you don’t know if you’re going to see something new or so. I just wanted to focus on myself and keep going and be consistent with my tactics,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said in her on court interview.
World No. 6 Gauff made a strong start and forced Swiatek to drop more than two games. Delivering powerful forehand returns, she troubled the top seed a bit before the Pole moved ahead after winning the opening set on her fifth set point.
The 21-year-old, who is marking a return to dominance again after losing a fourth-round match at the Australian Open to Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set.
She double faulted twice, which helped Gauff to close the gap, but Swiatek broke back immediately at 5-2 before serving out the match.
“For sure, I’m happy that I started both sets well. I think she used her chances to come back and to win a break.
“But honestly, I felt like with the way I started, I could also always come back to the game I played at the beginning. I’m pretty happy that I was solid and confident,” added the US Open winner.
The Polish star won eight titles in 2022, the most since Serena Williams won 11 in 2013, and she achieved the record century-long 37-match winning streak, going 135 days without losing.
The 2021 Dubai finalist from the Czech Republic defeated Pegula 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 in almost two hours.
With victory over Pegula, the Czech avenged her defeat to the American in the quarter-finals at last month’s Australian Open.
“I felt good, even though the second set didn’t go my way,” Krejcikova said after the match. “I was still thinking that I had a big chance, and was going for my shots and just trying to play my best tennis.
“I had to against Jessica, she’s a great player, and I’m really happy that I was able to do that.” said the world No. 30.
The former Roland Garros champion stunned Swiatek 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 last year in the Ostrava final.
“It’s always very nice to play the best one in the world, and she’s the best one right now,” Krejcikova said. “She was the best one last year. She’s playing some great tennis so I’m really looking forward to playing against her and seeing where my level is. I think it’s going to be a great final.
“I love challenges as I believe that I’m playing. I think that I can find a plan that will allow me to push her on the backfoot. I believe that I have a chance,’’ she added.
On Thursday, Krejcikova handed Aryna Sabalenka her first defeat of 2023 to knock out last month’s Australian Open champion out of the tournament.
Sabalenka appeared to be headed for another lopsided triumph as she surged into a one-set lead while riding a 13-match winning streak.
Nevertheless, Krejcikova rallied from a set down to square the score in a tiebreak in the second set before cruising to a 0-6, 7-6 6-1 triumph in just under two hours.
En route to the final, the Czech defeated Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu (6-4, 6-2), Russian Daria Kasatkina, the No 7 seed (6-4, 4-6, 7-5), and No 12 seed Petra Kvitova (6-3, 6-2).