The 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai is the last notable ITF tournament of the year, gathering a strong field of players who are also using this event as the pre-season preparations ahead of 2021. The 2nd seed Polona Hercog took down the 7th seed Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 18 minutes in their first meeting.
The Slovenian served at terrible 36%, but that wasn't an obstacle for her, dropping only ten points in nine service games and fending off a single break point to keep the pressure on the other side of the net. Arantxa couldn't follow that pace, struggling equally on both the first and second serve and getting broken three times from as many opportunities offered to Polona.
Hercog grabbed six of the last seven games in the opener, serving well and securing breaks at love in games three and five to build the advantage and win it 6-2 in just over 30 minutes. The second set was tighter, with Rus raising her level to follow the rival's pace in most of it.
Polona produced five comfortable holds and grabbed a break in game five that carried her home, following easy holds in games six, eight and ten. The 5th seed Katerina Siniakova ousted the 3rd seed Heather Watson 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 40 minutes.
The Czech won 13 points more, converting five out of nine break chances and getting broken twice to seal the deal in straight sets and remain on the title course. Katerina grabbed breaks in games one and seven in the opener, forging a 5-2 advantage and sealing it with a hold at love in game eight.
Watson produced two fine holds at the beginning of the second set and scored a break in game four to move 3-1 in front. The Briton wasted a game point that could have sent her 4-1 ahead, losing serve and allowing the Czech to rattle off four straight games and move a game away from triumph.
Polona Hercog and Katerina Siniakova are remainig seeds in Dubai.
Heather broke back in the very last moment at 4-5 to prolong the set and her chances, only to lose serve in the next game and push Katerina over the top despite a break opportunity in game 12.
A qualifier Elena Gabriela Ruse toppled Danka Kovinic 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 31 minutes, taking nine straight games for a 6-1, 3-0 lead before Danka bounced back to level the score at 4-4. Elena Gabriela stayed calm, holding in game nine and breaking her opponent at love a few minutes later to advance into the semis.
Sorana Cirstea overpowered Barbora Krejcikova 7-6, 1-6, 6-3 in two hours and 28 minutes in the longest match of the day. Cirstea prevailed 7-5 in the opening set tie break, losing ground in set number two and bouncing back in the decider with a double break to book a place in the last four.