The doubles semifinal of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships saw a blockbuster match between the Russian pairing of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, the WTA Finals champions, and the Indo-Czech pairing of Barbora Strycova and Sania Mirza. Despite making a great start to the match, Strycova and Mirza eventually fell in straight sets after just 77 minutes and the Russian pairing progressed to their second final of the year, after losing to Mattek-Sands and Mirza in the final of the Brisbane International.
Slow start for the Russian pairing, but eventually manages to clinch the first set
After a rain delay of close to one hour which delayed the starting time of this match, it gave both teams a chance to talk about their tactics for the match. Mirza and Strycova seem to benefit most from the rain as they made the best possible start to the match, making the first breakthrough as they broke serve in the opening game and getting the early advantage. Strycova kept the momentum ongoing as she held her opening service game comfortably and consolidated the break of serve, extending their lead to two games.
The Russian pairing looked vulnerable on serve once again as the Indo-Czech pair earned two more break point opportunities, threatening to take a double break lead. Nevertheless, Makarova came up with a couple of good serves to hold onto their service game, getting themselves onto the scoreboard and prevented Mirza and Strycova from extending their lead once more.
The narrow service hold proved to be very encouraging as the Russian pairing broke straight back in the next game with the help of several unforced errors by Mirza, returning level on serve. Having the golden opportunity to regain the lead, Mirza and Strycova failed to take their chances well as Makarova and Vesnina held their serve and led on the scoreboard for the first time in the match.
The next chance of a service break came in the seventh game, with Vesnina and Makarova earning two break point opportunities to have a chance to serve out the first set. However, the Russians hit some ill-timed unforced errors to gift the Indo-Czech the service hold, disallowing themselves to take the lead. What happened next was very unexpected as Makarova and Vesnina won eight points in a row to hold serve comfortably and break serve in the last game of the set, clinching the first set 6-4 after just 39 minutes.
Makarova and Vesnina almost gets pegged back
With the momentum running in them, the Russian pair extended their streak to 11 points in a row before Makarova hit a double fault on game point to give Strycova and Mirza a small chance to get the early break. That first service game seemed easy on the surface, but in fact, it was a very tricky game for Makarova and Vesnina as they were brought to deuce by the Indo-Czech pairing before they clinched the tight game to get off to a positive start to the second set.
Looking down and out, Strycova hit an unfortunate double fault on deciding point in her opening service game of the set, gifting the Russians an early advantage and a lead of a set and a break. Despite having the chances to return back on serve just right in the following game, Strycova and Mirza wasted the two break point opportunities they earned to allow Makarova and Vesnina to have a comfortable 3-0 lead, looking to close out the match in a hurry.
Within a blink of an eye, the Russian pair soon found themselves leading 5-0 in the scoreboard, being just one game away from the win. From then, it looked like Strycova and Mirza were playing their best tennis as they managed to hold their serve twice and get back one of the breaks, returning to 3-5 and give themselves a real chance to send the match into a match tiebreak.
Their comeback was almost complete as they went up 0-40 on Makarova’s serve, one point away from returning on serve and leveling the second set with the momentum in them all of a sudden. Nevertheless, Makarova and Vesnina held their nerves and prevented Mirza and Strycova from completing the comeback, winning four consecutive points to seal the match after just 1 hour and 17 minutes.