Simona Halep faces her sternest test yet as she seeks a semi-final spot at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships today. In her quest for her second title on the hardcourts of the Aviation Club Tennis Centre, the Romanian has a tough challenge in the form of the seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka.
One look at the head-to-head record will, of course, make the Wimbledon champion the favourite. The former World No. 1 leads 2-1 and did not even drop a set in her two wins over her young Belarusian opponent. But it is their most recent showdown that is vital in this encounter.
The World No. 13 was the underdog when the two squared off at Adelaide earlier this year. Yet the performance that Sabalenka put up was something that displayed her fearlessness and aggression to the truest extent. The 21-year-old thoroughly dismantled Halep to run away to an effortless 6-4, 6-2 win.
Sabalenka would definitely look back at that sterling display as she gears up for the blockbuster quarter-final in Dubai today. She was stretched to three sets by Maria Sakkari in her first round but was able to dig deep when it mattered the most to complete a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory over the Greek. In her next round, she made short work of the dangerous Elise Mertens in a commanding 6-4, 6-3 win.
There is no doubt that Sabalenka has all the momentum with her to try and topple Halep once again. That said, the Romanian is coming off a confidence-boosting win over Ons Jabeur when things absolutely did not look to be going her way. The former French Open winner was pretty much silenced by the Tunisian in a mind-blowing exhibition of power and precision in the first set.
Halep, however, remained undeterred and slowly used her movement and her aggressive defence to find her way into the match. Her patience was a key factor as she held her nerves to carve out a gritty 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(7) win in 2 hours.
Having come back from the brink, the World No. 2 is already battle-hardened and should be ready for the barrage of Sabalenka groundstrokes this time. This won't be easy but the Australian Open semi-finalist would very much look to use her experience to stop the Sabalenka juggernaut this time.
Here's all you need to know about Dubai Tennis Championships:
Tournament: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
Category: WTA Premier
City: Dubai, UAE
Venue: Aviation Club Tennis Centre
Prize money: $2,908,770
Match schedule: (1) Simona Halep (ROU) vs (7) Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) quarter-final match approx between 10 and 10:30 pm IST on February 20, 2020
Live Telecast: There will be no live telecast in India
Live Scores: Click here
Head-to-head: Halep leads 2-1Published 20 Feb 2020, 18:21 IST