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'Out of power' Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

Agence France-Presse
'Out of power' Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai
Poland's Iga Swiatek hits a return against Germany’s Angelique Kerber during their women's singles final match at the United Cup tennis event on Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney on January 7, 2024.
Saeed Khan / AFP

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iga Swiatek blamed fatigue for her semi-final defeat to Anna Kalinskaya in the Dubai semi-finals on Friday, admitting: "I didn't have power anymore" to up her level during the match.

Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek's seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one's bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"I didn't have power anymore to give even more, which doesn't happen often," admitted 22-year-old Swiatek.

"I just felt out of control a little bit because of that. Usually when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game. Today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn't."

The 40th-ranked Kalinskaya was contesting her first WTA 1000 semi-final, and is into the first tour-level final of her career, where she faces Italian Jasmine Paolini.

Kalinskaya defeated Paolini last month at the Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final. They will square off once again on Saturday in another career-defining showdown.

Top seed Swiatek came into the semi-finals having won 25 of her last 26 matches and looking to follow up her title run in Doha last week with a first-time triumph in Dubai.

Kalinskaya had to battle through the qualifying rounds and has won seven matches in total this week in the emirate, including three top-10 victories over Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and now Swiatek.

"She's a great player. I knew if I didn't stay calm and I didn't stay aggressive she is going to destroy me. So that was my plan, to stay aggressive, to move her a lot," said the 25-year-old Kalinskaya.

From 2-4 down, Kalinskaya won four games in a row to snatch in 53 minutes.

The Russian saved six of seven break points during that set, drawing 11 unforced errors off Swiatek's racquet.

Swiatek took a toilet break between sets but it didn't change the momentum as Kalinskaya clinched a fifth consecutive game on a loose forehand from her opponent.

- Racquet smash -
Swiatek threw her racquet in frustration as she lost a sixth game in a row, falling behind 0-2 early in the second set.

Kalinskaya claimed a second break of serve in game seven and served for the match at 5-2 but Swiatek wasn't ready to fold just yet and put pressure on the Russian by narrowing her deficit.

But even when she was staring down two break points while serving for the match for a second time, Kalinskaya didn't flinch, saving both and completing a milestone victory on the one-hour 41-minute mark.

Earlier on Centre Court, Paolini overcame Romanian big-hitter Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to reach her first WTA 1000 final and become just the fourth Italian to make it that far at a tournament of this calibre on the women's tour.

The 28-year-old has pulled off some impressive wins this week in Dubai, knocking out 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, eight seed Maria Sakkari before Friday.

Paolini's reward is a place in the world's top-20 when the new rankings are released on Monday.

"I'm really happy. It's something that if somebody would have told me before this week, I wouldn't believe maybe. But yeah, now I'm in the final, so let's enjoy,” said Paolini.

On Friday, two breaks of serve were enough for Paolini to take a one-set lead in 41 minutes.

But things got more complicated in the second set as Cirstea kept striking back each time Paolini inched ahead.

Cirstea had come back from 2-6, 1-5 down in her previous round against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, saving six match points along the way.

When she wiped a 2-4 deficit against Paolini, saved a match point in the 10th game, and served for the second set at 6-5, it looked like Cirstea was on her way to another come-from-behind victory.

Paolini held her nerve though, saving five set points to force a tiebreak, and she closed out the win on her second opportunity in just under two hours.

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