Garbine Muguruza joined Angelique Kerber and defending champion Elina Svitolina in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open being played at the Dubai Tennis Stadium late on Thursday.
Runner-up at last week’s Qatar Open, Muguruza waded past Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-2 in the evening session’s first quarter-final and awaits the winner of the last all-Russian quarter-final between Daria Kasatkina and Elena Vesnina that was scheduled later on Thursday.
Muguruza showed no signs of her previous night’s travails of playing her second round match against Catherine Bellis till 2am as she took the first set 7-5 in an hour and two minutes.
There were a couple of minor rain delays — the first at 8.23pm and then at 8.47pm — but that was no distraction for the Spaniard as a couple of breaks took her 4-1 in the clear. Then followed a minor hitch as Garcia broke for 2-4, only for Muguruza to break back immediately and serve out for set and match 6-2 in an hour and 48 minutes in the battle between the two 24-year-olds that had gone into three sets in Doha last week.
“It’s always tough to play her and I am happy I could finish it in two sets tonight,” Muguruza said.
Earlier in the afternoon session, it was sixth seed Angelique Kerber setting up a mouth-watering clash against defending champion and top seed Elina Svitolina in a rematch of last year’s semi-final.
Svitolina and Kerber secured near-identical wins against wild card Naomi Osaka and third seed Karolina Pliskova respectively to book their date for a rematch on centre court at 7pm on Friday. The 23-year-old Ukrainian had got the better of Kerber in straight sets before going on to tame Denmark’s world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the final last year.
“I sincerely hope we can replicate last year. She [Svitolina] played unbelievable, and I believe she still has a lot of confidence, especially here where she won last year. It will be a tough match,” Kerber predicted on their meet-up on Friday.
“She’s bringing a lot of balls back, playing good tennis and moving good on court. I think it will be a close and tough match,” the sixth-seeded German added.
However before that, world No. 9 Kerber had to weather her way past former world No. 1 Pliskova. The German took the first set 6-4 in 38 mins and then broke in the first game to hold serve and go 2-0 up. After that she kept her Czech opponent pegged to the back of the court as she ran away with the second set and match 6-3 in an hour and 13 minutes.
And defending champion Svitolina came from a break down in the second set to see off young Japanese wild card Osaka in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. Trailing 4-2 in the second set after easing through the opener, the Ukrainian ran off the last four games of the match and make her way through to the last four while snapping a two-match losing skid against the world No. 48.
“I have much more confidence than when I started the year where I actually had no idea where I am, especially after last year. I had already so many matches under my belt, so that gives me much more match confidence,” Kerber related.
“I’m trying to play my best at every single match. I’m trying to go out there and just think about the next match, the next point,” the 30-year-old German added.
Elina Svitolina bt Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4
Angelique Kerber bt Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3
Garbine Muguruza bt Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-2
(Playing later) Daria Kasatkina vs Elena Vesnina.
(Doubles) Alicja Rosolska/Abigail Spears bt Latisha Chan/Andrea Sestini Hlavackova 1-6, 7-6, 1-0 (8).
Order of Play for Friday
Centre Court (Start at 2pm) Hao-Ching Chan/Zhaoxuan Yang vs Alicja Rosolska/Abigail Spears; (Not before 5pm) Daria Kasatkina OR Elena Vesnina vs Caroline Garcia OR Garbine Muguruza; (Not fore 7pm) Elina Svitolina vs Angelique Kerber; Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina vs Su-Wei Hsieh/Shuai Peng.