Bencic tops 2-time Dubai champ Svitolina; Kvitova in final

Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova returns the ball to Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan during their women's singles semifinals match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Belinda Bencic stops 2-time defending champ Elina Svitolina in Dubai and will face Petra Kvitova in final

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — As Belinda Bencic fell into a dangerous deficit in the Dubai Championships semifinals, she threw her racket and yelled at herself. One game from losing to two-time defending champ Elina Svitolina, Bencic was about to do what she's been doing all week: getting out of trouble and coming back to win.

Bencic stopped Svitolina's bid for a third consecutive title at the hard-court tournament Friday by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3).

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row after trailing against a top-10 opponent and now will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday's final.

"I kind of like these dramatic matches," Bencic said with a laugh after erasing a 5-3 hole in the third set against No. 6 seed Svitolina. "I don't know why."

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic, a 21-year-old from Switzerland, is seeking her third career title. Kvitova is trying to win her 27th; she is 26-8 in finals.

Kvitova has won all three previous matchups between the two players in straight sets, including a 6-1, 6-4 win in the third round of the Australian Open last month. Kvitova was the runner-up in Melbourne.

Bencic is having quite a run in Dubai. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then came back after dropping the opening set to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

So it really wasn't anything new when Bencic broke while Svitolina served for their match at 5-4 in the third, then ran away with the tiebreaker, ending the match with a backhand lob winner on the run.

"I feel like I've been playing better when I'm 3-5 down. So probably I should try (that in my) next match, as well," Bencic joked.

As for why she's had so much success after falling behind in match after match, she said: "I think I relax. ... I feel much freer."

Kvitova is trying to add a second Dubai title to the one she won in 2013.

Hsieh, who is ranked 31st and hits two-handed shots off both sides, had eliminated a trio of top-10 seeds already and grabbed five games in a row against Kvitova to take the opening set and go ahead 1-0 in the second.

"She's very tricky," Kvitova said.

"I didn't really play the best in the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterward a little bit," Kvitova said. "With her, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It's not really that easy to make those winners against her."

The players traded three service breaks to begin the third set before Kvitova held for a 3-1 lead and was on her way.

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