Tennis: Comeback queen Bencic stuns champion to reach Dubai final

Bencic celebrates after winning against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Bencic celebrates after winning against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (AFP) - Belinda Bencic made another late winning charge over a Top 10 opponent on Friday (Feb 22) to set up a Dubai Championships final against Petra Kvitova.

The 45th-ranked Swiss, who once stood seventh in the rankings before a run of back and wrist injuries, came from 5-3 down in the final set to end the 12-match Dubai win streak of defending two-time champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3).

Bencic lost to Kvitova in the Australian Open third round in January - her third defeat in three meetings with the Czech - but said she has great respect for her opponent.

"I was supporting her after I lost, she really deserved it," Bencic said of the eventual finalist in Melbourne.

It has been a remarkable week for Bencic who beat number eight Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, where she saved six match points, and then world number two Simona Halep in the quarter-finals.

Second seed Kvitova booked her third final in two months winning a marathon over Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The double Wimbledon winner already owns a title from Sydney last month and lost to Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open final.

Kvitova won in Dubai in 2013 and is playing the event for the first time in three years while 21-year-old Bencic has reached her first final since October in Luxembourg.

Svitolina, the sixth seed, was broken while serving for victory leading 5-4 in the final set on Friday.

After holding for 6-5, Bencic was then unable to convert on three match points a game later.

The tiebreaker was marked by furious shots of the ground from both players, with Bencic connecting on down-the-line winners.

She clinched victory with a lob after almost two hours on her fourth winning chance.

"I wish I could have played better," Svitolina said.

"I did some unforced errors in (bad) moments. She took her chance - that was the end."

Kvitova earned her fourth victory in four meetings over Hsieh.

"It was a tough one today, she really didn't give me anything for free," Kvitova said.

"I'm glad I was able to come back in the second. I'm pleased with my mental focus after losing the first set. I was calmer when I came back and played the second.

"She didn't give me any high balls. I really had to be very, very low, bend my knees, whatever I really needed."

Hsieh, who lost to Kvitova in the Sydney second round, snatched the opening set on a pair of breaks, with the Czech forced into a fightback in the second.

The world fourth-ranked Czech, with 26 career titles, earned two breaks of her own in the second set, with Hsieh saving a set point in the penultimate game before the contest was levelled at a set apiece.