Simona Halep tries to avoid a second loss in as many months to Aryna Sabalenka when the pair face off in the Dubai quarter-finals on Thursday night.
Simona Halep ?? vs Aryna Sabalenka ?? Match Info
Date: Thursday February 20
Tournament: WTA Dubai QF
Court: Court Central
Time: 8.30pm local time (4.30pm GMT)
Simona Halep vs Aryna Sabalenka Head-to-Head
Halep leads 2-1
2020 | Adelaide QF | Sabalenka 6-4 6-2
2018 | Cincinnati SF | Halep 6-3 6-4
2018 | Shenzhen QF | Halep 6-2 6-2
Simona Halep vs Aryna Sabalenka Match Preview
After barely surviving a thrilling opening match in Dubai, Halep must confront the explosive Sabalenka in order to advance into the semi-finals on Thursday night.
Played in front of an electrifying atmosphere, Halep saved a match point to outlast Australian Open quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur 1-6 6-2 7-6(7). The pair combined to produce a dramatic final set in which Halep wasted a 4-1 lead but ultimately recovered as Jabeur – who had won four games on the bounce – served for the match. The clash went into a deciding set tiebreak and it was Jabeur who appeared to have all the momentum as the Tunisian saved three match points with some big serving, a successful hawk-eye challenge and a smash winner to earn herself a match point of her own. However, Halep held firm as Jabeur’s forehand misfired on three consecutive points to score herself a memorable victory.
“It was like a football match or a Fed Cup match. I didn’t really realize what is going on on court. Everyone was with a lot of energy so we had to give our best. I think it was a great match,” Halep said after the victory.
“The only one thing that you have to do when you don’t have rhythm during the match, just put your head down and fight for every ball. You never know when you can win an easy ball or a tough ball. What I had to do is just to fight. I’m really proud that I could do that.”
Halep was playing her first match since the Australian Open, where she advanced to the semi-finals without dropping a set before going down to a resurgent Garbine Muguruza.
Back working with Darren Cahill for this season, Halep appears set for another typically consistent season. The Romanian has been ranked inside the top 10 since January 2014 – a total of 317 consecutive weeks, which is the 10th longest streak in WTA history.
However, while 2019 was undoubtedly a success has Halep captured her second Grand Slam title with a commanding win over Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, she actually won her fewest amount of matches in a season since 2012, registering a 43-17 record as she finished at No. 4 in the world – her lowest year-end ranking since 2016. Outside of Wimbledon, Halep’s last title came back in August 2018 at the Rogers Cup. Can the former World No. 1 go all the way in Dubai – like she did in 2015 – this week?
Sabalenka stands in her way on Thursday night. The 21-year-old from Belarus has advanced into the Dubai quarter-finals courtesy of a battling three-set win over Maria Sakkari and a convincing 6-4 6-3 victory over doubles partner Elise Mertens in the second round on Wednesday. Sabalenka and Mertens had split their four previous encounters and their last three had gone the distance, but Sabalenka was in control in Dubai as she registered a 6-4 6-3 triumph.
“It was a tough match and [Mertens is] a great player,” Sabalenka told the media, after her win. “I knew it was going to be tough, and I was just trying to focus on each point and not think about anything else.”
Sabalenka struggled for much of 2019 as she attempted to back up her stellar breakout 2018 season, where she won titles in Wuhan and New Haven, along with runner-up finishes in Lugano and Eastbourne, a semi-final in Cincinnati, five more quarter-finals and a fourth round run at the U.S. Open to finish the season at No. 11. In fact, Sabalenka managed to end 2019 at exactly the same spot in the rankings, but she did win seven less matches and if not for her prowess in China – where she won three WTA titles in Wuhan, Shenzhen and the WTA Elite Trophy – she would have finished a lot lower.
Buoyed by a win over Halep in Adelaide last month, can Sabalenka repeat the feat in Dubai to make the semi-finals?
Simona Halep vs Aryna Sabalenka Prediction
It’s the classic clash of styles where Sabalenka will be the player trying to take control from the baseline with her punishing groundstrokes and Halep will attempt to absorb the pace, redirect the ball and work the angles. Halep is playing much better now than when she was playing her first tournament of the season in Adelaide and she’s the type of player that needs matches to find her best tennis. After surviving a big battle against Jabeur, the Romanian should be battle-hardened and ready to counter Sabalenka’s big game on Thursday night.