Today was the final of the Dubai Duty Free classic WTA1000 in Dubai, the first 1000 level event of the year. It was won superbly, by Barbara Krejcikova who beat Iga Świątek, the world number one and hot favourite, in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 to give a Krejcikova the 6th singles title of her career and her first WTA1000 level title. Krejcikova also achieved something remarkable – beating the three top ranked players in one week – actually on successive days!
After the final in Ostrava last October where Krejcikova won in three sets in an absolute classic, I fully expected, Iga to get her revenge today, however, pretty much from the start Krejcikova played beautifully, not letting Swiatek get into her groove. Iga looked very out of sorts in this match. She is suffering from a slight cold, but I think Krejcikova has the edge over her mentally. Iga is so used to beating people easily – even top players – that I honestly do not know whether she has the tools to really battle when she’s under the cosh.
Barbora Krejcikova is an awkward matchup for her. She doesn’t return in the way many other players do , mixing it up with pace, angles and direction. Like most players, Iga thrives on rhythm and Krejcikova gives none. 6-4, 6-2 is quite comprehensive and she was the better player throughout.
This title is Barbara‘s first WTA 1000 level title and sixth overall. It was fully deserved and she had an amazing week. After saving match points against Daria Kasatkina, she took out Petra Kvitova, Aryna Sabalenka, Jessica Pegula and Iga Świątek. Beating the number one, number two and number three in the world is something that has only happened a couple of times before. An amazing achievement. And it’s all thanks to Daria Kasatkina!
Quite frankly, in that second round match. Barbara was all over the place. She played a superb first set, but then was making so many errors. It looked all over when Kasatkina got to match point, but double faulted – twice. Coming through that match really seem to make a difference and quite honestly Krejcikova has been superb since.
The win over Kvitová was bittersweet for me as a Petra fan, but I cannot deny that Krejcikova played extremely well, a typical controlled Barbora performance that I usually love, but was slightly cursing in this match against my beloved Petra! However, Krejcikova was clearly the better player – as she was in all her remaining matches to be honest – and that was against the top 3 players in the world!
The quarter-final against newly crowned Australian Open champion, and world number 2 Aryna Sabalenka was another fantastic match. Sabalenka started extremely well, continuing her Australian Open form and the all-out aggression we have seen from her in the past years. She was a 6-0, 3-1 up and it looked to be all over for Krejcikova, who wasn’t playing that badly. Sabalenka was just red hot and super controlled and confident. But somehow Barbora kept fighting. She started to serve better and managed to get to a tiebreak. Barbora was ultimately tougher in the tie break, Sabalenka double faulting twice and Krejcikova winning it, which was the tuning point. Krejcikova then romped away with the final set, 6-1, striking the ball beautifully and powerfully, handing Sabalenka her first loss of 2023.
In the semifinals, world number 3, Jessica Pegula looked very, very tired to be honest. Krejcikova started really well and easily won the first set, 6-1 but then lost focus quite badly in set two. Pegula is actually an incredibly likable player and fully deserved to win the second set 7-5, but Krejcikova thankfully immediately got back into the groove and won the final set six-love, bagelling Pegula – and on her birthday too!
World number 1 Iga Swiatek has been on an absolute tear in the Middle East. Last week in Doha she won the title, hardly dropping any games at all (5 I think?). In Dubai, it was the same story. I didn’t watch that many of her matches because quite honestly Iga’s matches are not all that interesting to watch these days. She tends to beat people so easily.
After the Ostrava final, I thought Iga would be super-hungry for revenge. However it didn’t turn out that way. Iga looked unsettled from the start and quite honestly Krejcikova really was in control for most of the match. Notable, was her return of serve and she really punished Iga Świątek’s second serve far more than anybody else. This was a real feature in the matches against Kvitova and Sabalenka too. Krejcikova has great anticipation and redirects pace well.
Why Krejcikova seems to be the only player on tour who knows how to handle Swiatek’s game is a bit of a mystery. I’m a massive Barbara Krejcikova fan and one of the reasons why is because she is quite a unique player. When she’s on – as she is at the moment – she thinks so well tactically and is such a smart player. Her forehand is a real weapon and she has great disguise on her shots that definitely caught out her opponents this week. It really is impossible to tell if she is going down the line or whipping it crosscourt – a skill also on display in doubles. Her mental strength and tactical awareness is probably right up there at the top of the women’s game at the moment.
Swiatek is the clear number one on the WTA tour with a massive lead over everybody else, although having said that she’s defending most of those points in the next couple of months. She is still only 21 years old. However, it is not that long since she sat on a court and cried after losing, and I do feel that she hasn’t necessarily got all the tools in her armoury yet for battling through tough matches. She’s a fantastic player. She has three Grand Slam titles, such a dominating player over the vast majority of the tour, but I do feel to really be an all-time great – as she probably will be – she needs to work on this – problem-solving skills when a match isn’t going her way. Can she win when she’s not playing well? The problem is, she wins so many matches easily, she simply doesn’t get pushed that often to hone those skills.
In 2023, her 3 losses have all been pretty convincing ones, her opponents winning in straight sets. Can she learn to fight in a match when not playing that well? One match that sticks in the mind is the SF loss in the 2022 Year End Championships to Sabalenka. Once the tide turned, Iga seemed powerless to change the momentum. At the 2022 Australian Open, she seemed to be learning after a battling 3 set win over Kanepi but I do feel she needs to learn to ‘win ugly.’ Krejcikova and Iga have developed an intriguing rivalry and I actually think playing Krejcikova will improve Iga’s game.
This blog started with an entry all about how I became a fan of Barbara Krejcikova almost 2 years ago, so this latest entry, with her biggest title since Roland Garros is a massive cause for celebration. Of course, Barbara beat my favourite, Petra Kvitova, so that wasn’t a thrill, but I am so delighted to see her win another title, a WTA 1000 level title and to beat the world number one once again.
One of the funnier stats of this week is the win over Pegula by the score 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 was exactly replicated by Krejcikova’s doubles partner Katerina Siniakova in the quarter-finals of the WTA250 in Merida. Siniakova beat Elizabeth Cocciaretto by exactly the same score last night.
I’m really keeping my fingers crossed for Katerina Siniakova. She is in the semifinals of the tournament in Merida, Mexico, but is playing Camila Giorgi tonight in the semifinals. Giorgi just beat Sloane Stephens 6-0, 6-0. Camila Giorgi is one of the most unusual players on the WTA tour. On her day she can beat anyone and hits the ball ridiculously hard for someone who looks so slight. However she’s quite a spiky, unlikeable character. It would be fantastic if Siniakova could repeat Krejcikova’s achievement and win the tournament.
Krejcikova and Siniakova will team up once again in Indian Wells in a couple of weeks. Just their second tournament of the year together. After this win in Dubai, Krejcikova will have all eyes on her once again. It was this time last year that she injured her elbow and didn’t play again til Roland Garros, where she bombed out in round 1 as she was totally unprepared. I’m not expecting her to win every tournament, but I’m hoping she can accumulate enough points to get back to the top 10 where she belongs. She is currently ranked number 16 just below Petra Kvitova. But her level this week was simply outstanding, and I’m thrilled for Krejcikova.