Wimbledon champ Vondrousova blows six match points in Dubai loss

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova lost after being ahead 6-2, 5-1 against Sorana Cirstea in the Dubai Championships quarterfinals Thursday.

Vondrousova blew six match points as Cirstea won 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

World No. 3 Coco Gauff also lost from a set up when she was run down by qualifier Anna Kalinskaya 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

That left No. 1 Iga Swiatek as the only seed in the semifinals from 16 that started the tournament. Swiatek will play 40th-ranked Kalinskaya on Friday. The 22nd-ranked Cirstea faces 26th-ranked Jasmine Paolini of Italy in the other semi.

Cirstea won her two most recent matchups with Vondrousova, but the 18-year tour pro from Romania admitted she thought she was going to lose heavily in Dubai.

"This has to be the biggest comeback of my career," Cirstea said. "To be honest, at a set and 5-1, I wasn't really thinking about winning anymore. I was like, make it nicer for the public, try to make it a little bit longer, try to give them a little bit of nicer tennis. I still don't know how I managed it."

She started swinging freely while No. 7-seeded Vondrousova gradually grew more passive.

Cirstea saved two match points with aces at 5-1 down. At 5-2, she saved another with a drive volley as she took control of the center of the court.

Two more match points were denied at 5-3 on serve. Vondrousova served for the match a third time at 6-5, but Cirstea wrong-footed the Czech player to rub out a sixth match point.

Cirstea rode the momentum through the tiebreaker and third set.

Gauff was on track to meet Swiatek in the Dubai semis for a second straight year until her serve declined in the second set. She still created break chances but couldn't convert them.

"I could feel the tension until the last point so it was very important on my side to stay calm and stay aggressive," Kalinskaya said.

Her first top-five win came a day after knocking out No. 9 Jelena Ostapenko. Kalinskaya announced her arrival by reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals. She was looking forward to playing Swiatek.

"I played doubles against her a long time ago," Kalinskaya said. "I'm super excited for tomorrow."

Swiatek took out Australian Open finalist Zheng Qinwen 6-3, 6-2. She saved all three break points she faced and broke Zheng three times. The Polish player improved her record against Zheng to 6-0.

Paolini advanced from her first quarterfinal of the year thanks to a walkover after No. 4 Elena Rybakina withdrew because of a stomach illness. Rybakina believed she had become run down on the Middle East swing after winning Abu Dhabi, reaching the Doha final last week and winning two more singles matches in Dubai.