No. 1 Swiatek loses to Kalinskaya in Dubai semifinals, Paolini awaits in final

Iga Swiatek, of Poland, serves to Jelena Ostapenko, of Latvia, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — World No. 1 Iga Swiatek was stunned by qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships on Friday.

Swiatek was up 4-2 when Kalinskaya broke straight back. Swiatek’s consistency began to desert her and Kalinskaya rattled off four straight games to take the first set. Swiatek saved two match points to break for 5-3 in the second and had another chance to break for 5-5 but hit wide.

Kalinskaya gave Swiatek her first straight-set loss in almost a year.

The first qualifier to reach the Dubai final has defeated three top-10 players in a row, starting with No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko, then No. 3 Coco Gauff for her first top-five win, then Swiatek in their first meeting.

The 40th-ranked Kalinskaya will play 26th-ranked Jasmine Paolini of Italy in Saturday’s final. It’s the first WTA final for Kalinskaya and Paolini’s shot at a second title, easily her biggest.

Kalinskaya said the key to beating Swiatek was to stay calm yet aggressive.

“I know if I don’t stay calm and I don’t stay aggressive she is going to destroy me,” Kalinskaya said in her on-court interview. “That was my plan, to stay aggressive and move her a lot. She’s unbelievable. I’m happy I had the chance to play against her.

“I feel physically much better than last year. That gives me a lot of confidence to play at such a high level.”

The last qualifier to beat two top 3 players in a tournament was Amelie Mauresmo in 1998 in in Berlin with wins over Lindsay Davenport and Jana Novotna.

Paolini held off Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6 (6) in their semifinal. She has beaten three top-30 players in a row for the first time. Paolini saved six set points in the second set.

“I gave you a little bit of drama at the end of the match,” she said on court.

Paolini and Kalinskaya have one win against each other. Kalinskaya beat Paolini just a month ago in the Australian Open fourth round.

“When I played against her in Australian Open, she was also returning really deep and I couldn’t start the point well,” Paolini said. “She was really also consistent, not many mistakes.

“If you want to beat her, I guess you have to play deep and to try to do not too many mistakes, but also to try to hit winners, to hit the ball, to push her away from the court because if not, she’s going to move you.”

Reaching the final has assured Paolini of a top 20 debut when the rankings are updated on Monday. Kalinskaya will rise into the top 30 for the first time and could crack the top 20 with the title.

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