Sorana Cirstea pulled off the most daring escape act of her 17-year WTA career on Thursday, overhauling reigning Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2 to book the semi-finals in Dubai.

The 33-year-old Romanian ranked 22nd spent two and three-quarter hours in tossing out the formbook as she took down her seeded Czech opponent after trailing a set and 5-1.

She saved six match points in the second set as her fightback took hold.

“I didn’t expect to win this one,” she said. “But I looked over at the clock and I saw it was only one hour of play. 

“I was having such great support. I said, Okay, let’s try to win one more game for the public, make it a little bit longer. 

“That took the pressure away from me. I started to find my game. Of course, I’m very happy to pull this win through.”

She added: “I don’t remember winning from (so far down). I just found out I was six match points down. 

“There was a moment in time where I kind of gave up with the idea of winning. 

“I didn’t give up the fight and trying to give everything I have. It’s a lesson that in life we have to fight.. it doesn’t matter.”

Cirstea will play on Friday for a spot in her first Tour final since 2021 in Strasbourg, facing Jasmine Paolini.

The Italian earned a free ride when 2022 Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina withdrew from their quarter-final due to intestinal problems.

Paolini owns a 2-0 record over Cristea and will be confident heading in.

“I know better how Sorana is playing because I’ve played with her more times.

“But we’ll see. I’m trying to focus on my game, to try to do what’s best for me.”

Cirstea, who first played Dubai 15 years ago, ended with 46 winners and 49 unforced errors, breaking five times from 23 chances.

Cirstea has now beaten Vondrousova in their last three meetings and clocked her second Top 10 win of the season as she defeated the world No. 8.

She is into the semi-finals of an elite 1000-level tournament for the third time.