No.6 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia reached the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open semifinals for a second straight year after upsetting No.2 seed Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The Brazilian had come through the longest match of the year on Wednesday, outlasting Magda Linette 7-6(6), 6-7(1), 6-1 in 3 hours and 42 minutes. Indeed, that was the second year in a row she had gone over 3 hours in the Abu Dhabi second round: at the same stage in 2023, she defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(4) in 3 hours and 13 minutes.
However, Haddad Maia backed up both those efforts with another victory to make the last four. This year, her defeat of Jabeur in the first outdoor hard-court meeting levelled her record against the Tunisian at two wins apiece. It was also Haddad Maia’s first Top 10 win since beating Jabeur in last year’s Roland Garros quarterfinals.
Haddad Maia, who fell to eventual champion Belinda Bencic in the 2023 semifinals, will face either No.7 seed Daria Kasatkina or Sorana Cirstea as she bids to make her first final of 2024.
How the match was won: Haddad Maia delivered a watertight and consistent performance to hold off Jabeur, whose form fluctuated throughout the match. She tallied 11 winners to 13 unforced errors, compared to the Tunisian’s 25 winners and 28 unforced errors.
Jabeur held a break point in the first game of the match, but sprayed a forehand wide — setting the tone for an impatient opening set in which she continually went for too much, too soon. Haddad Maia broke for 3-1 courtesy of a double fault, mistimed smash and netted slice from Jabeur. Though the three-time major finalist found some rhythm in the last two games, it was too late to save the set.
A rare loose service game from Haddad Maia let an early break lead slip in the second set, and the home stretch of the match was tightly contested. In this passage of play, Jabeur came up with some of her most breathtaking shots — a defensive drop shot in the fifth game, and a series of electrifying down-the-line forehands as Haddad Maia attempted to serve out the match. But the 29-year-old also appeared to be in tears midway through the set.
Haddad Maia’s ability to respond to Jabeur’s in-and-out play — particularly the bursts of form at the tail end of each set — was superb. Whenever Jabeur threatened to gain some momentum with a flurry of winners, Haddad Maia snuffed it out with strong serving and strategic net approaches. This paid off on both set point in the first set, which she converted with a volley winner, and her second match point, when a Jabeur pass sailed long.
Rybakina to face Samsonova in semifinals: The top-half semifinal will see No.1 seed Elena Rybakina take on No.8 seed Liudmila Samsonova after both advanced in straight sets. Rybakina defeated lucky loser Cristina Bucsa for the second time this year, coming from 3-1 down in the second set to win 6-1, 6-4.
Whereas Bucsa had pushed Rybakina hard in the Adelaide second round, this time round Rybakina sailed through the first set for the loss of just eight points. The Spaniard’s ability to redirect pace garnered her an early lead in the second set, but Rybakina recovered to win five of the last six games. The former Wimbledon champion fired seven aces, and dropped just five points behind her first serve.
Rybakina will face a stern test against Samsonova, who defeated No.4 seed Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-4. Samsonova is 4-0 against Rybakina at pro level, all on outdoor hard courts, including wins in the Montreal and Beijing semifinals last year. The only time Rybakina was victorious over Samsonova at any level was in their only junior meeting in 2016, winning 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) on clay in Umag.