Svitolina to Face Kerber, Muguruza Plays Kasatkina in Dubai Semis
(February 22, 2018) Defending champion and top seed Elina Svitolina will face two-time major winner and sixth seed Angelique Kerber in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after both had straight-sets victories on Thursday. Svitolina beat wild card Naomi Osaka 6-2 ,6-4, and in a clash of two former world number ones Kerber defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3.
Wimbledon champion and second seed Garbine Muguruza advanced beating Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-2, and will face unseeded Daria Kasatkina, who twice failed to serve out the first set before overcoming Elena Vesnina 7-6 (5) 6-1.
It seemed at first as if Svitolina was going to run away with the match as she swept to a 5-0 lead, not even allowing her opponent a game point in the first four games. But the momentum changed as Osaka eventually found her serve and hit her groundstrokes with confidence, pace and accuracy. By then it was too late to save the first set but she carried her momentum into the second and earned an early break of serve, before a determined Svitolina re-established herself and claimed the last five games.
“I had couple of tough matches against her,” said Svitolina, who lost to Osaka in their last two meetings. “I had to be ready for her to raise her level. Just stayed in the moment. Was fighting, waiting for my opportunity, trying to earn opportunities. That’s pretty much it. She gave me this chance and I took it. This was the key.”
She is content with the way she is dealing with the pressure of defending her title.
“Yeah, definitely I’m happy the way I’ve been handling the pressure and tough moments. I had two good matches. I cannot say was amazing tennis, but when I needed I was stepping up and playing well.”
Just one break decided the first set between Kerber and Pliskova. Kerber then broke at love to lead 1-0 in the second set and then again for the match. Kerber did not face a break point and she has now won 15 matches this year, equalling the total of Australian Open champion and world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
“I think that I was playing quite good today,” said Kerber. “Especially I served well. I think that was at the end the key for the match. I know what to expect, all that. She hit the ball really hard, serving good. I was trying to, yeah, playing good returns back, then just playing my game.”
Muguruza needed to be patient in the first set as five break points were wasted before she broke to lead 6-5. But then at one stage in the second set Muguruza won 13 straight points to put herself firmly on the way to a comfortable victory.
“I think it was a very good match, especially the first set,” said Muguruza, who also beat her opponent last week. “I felt that whoever could win it (could win the match). When you play a top-10 player, and you beat second time in a row, it gives you a good sign that what I’m doing is right.”