Jelena Ostapenko’s remarkable week of comebacks at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships continued with a 2-6, 7-6(0), 6-0 victory over Simona Halep in the semifinals.
She will play Veronika Kudermetova, who advanced after qualifier Marketa Vondrousova withdrew due to an injury, in the final.
Ostapenko has beaten a Grand Slam champion in all four rounds en route to the final, previously taking out Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova. She needed a third-set tiebreak to edge the latter two, and coming into the semifinals had spent six hours on court compared to Halep’s three hours and 40 minutes.
However, the Latvian was once again supremely clutch as she pulled off another unlikely escape – one reminiscent at times of her comeback win over Halep in the 2017 Roland Garros final, which she won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 from a break down in both the second and third sets.
The result puts Ostapenko into her 11th career final, sixth at WTA 500 level or above, and third in the past nine months after a title run in Eastbourne and a runner-up showing in Luxembourg last year.
Ostapenko began by hitting herself off the court, and ended by hitting Halep off the court. During the first set, the World No.21 deployed a first-strike strategy that was extreme even by her own standards, and ended it with a ratio of nine winners to 20 unforced errors. Halep did not need to hit a winner off the ground to seal it in 27 minutes, though three aces from the Romanian aided her cause.
Any suspicion that Ostapenko’s first-set performance was related to fatigue was put to rest in the second. Her radar was still in-and-out: a flurry of winners took her to 3-0, but she was pegged back to 3-3 after the errors returned. As the set reached its climax, Halep faltered, with two double faults offering up two set points at 6-5 – but Ostapenko squandered both chances with netted groundstrokes.
The 24-year-old did not let this bother her. Instead, she shook off that disappointment to steamroll through the rest of the match with a glorious display of sustained, uninhibited power tennis. From 6-6, Ostapenko won 27 of the next 34 points to whitewash Halep in the tiebreak and race into a 5-0 third-set lead.