Solana Cirstea of Romania celebrates after beating Marketa Vondrousova of...

Solana Cirstea of Romania celebrates after beating Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic during a quarter final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Kamran Jebreili

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

Vondrousova blew six match points in losing 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

Cirstea also won their previous two matchups but the Romanian veteran 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 suddenly started swinging freely while No. 7-seeded Vondrousova gradually grew more passive.

Cirstea saved two match points at 5-1 with aces. 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 her to rub out a sixth match point.

Solana Cirstea of Romania returns the ball to Marketa Vondrousova...

Solana Cirstea of Romania returns the ball to Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic during a quarter final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Kamran Jebreili

Cirstea rode the momentum through the tiebreaker and third set.

Ranked 22, Cirstea ensured an unseeded player will reach the final. She faces Jasmine Paolini, ranked 26, in the semifinals.

Another seed, No. 4 Elena Rybakina, withdrew before her quarterfinal because of a stomach illness. The beneficiary was Paolini of Italy, who advanced from her first quarterfinal of the year. She was nominated for 2023 most improved player.

Later quarterfinals featured No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek against Qinwen Zheng, and No. 3 Coco Gauff.

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