Dubai: The top two seeds wilted away on a day of upsets in the quarter-finals of the 25th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being held at the Habtoor Grand Resort on Friday.
Carole Monnet picked up a memorable win in three sets against top seed Diana Shnaider, while former runner-up Viktoria Kuzmova took just 72 minutes to pack off the fancied second seed Kristina Mladenovic.
Monnet, who had gone down in straight sets against Shnaider in their only meeting at the Gran Canaria earlier this year, used her guile to outfox the hard-hitting top seed and win 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 15 minutes of intense, high-quality tennis.
Kuzmova, on the other hand, was effortless in her 6-2, 6-3 win against Mladenovic, a former nine-time Grand Slam doubles champion.
Putting all the experience to good use
“I liked the way I handled this match. After losing that first set, I changed my tactics and started being more consistent and conservative,” Monnet said after her quarter-final match. “The key was to try and dictate to her. But every time I did so, my loss to her [at Gran Canaria] kept on coming back to my mind. Finally, I told myself that I had to make use of the experience gained through that loss and try and turn things around.”
The 20-year-old’s next opponent will be fellow French Elsa Jacquemot, who dispatched of Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova 6-1, 6-4 in the last quarter-final of the day.
“A semi-final at a W100 event is really my best result this season. I know my level and I am aware of what I can do on the court. But I would rather take things one match at a time,” Monnet said.
Monnet and Jacquemot have met thrice on the circuit and it has resulted with wins for Jacquemot on all three occasions. “Tomorrow is another day, and I will try my best to win for the fourth time against Carole. She is a good player, but I feel I have the game to go all the way,” Jacquemot added.
Earlier, the lower part of the draw also had its two semi-finalists ready with third-seeded Magdalena Frech of Poland getting past Anastasia Zakharova 6-4, 6-1, after Kuzmova had tamed Mladenovic.
“The key today was to stay focused all the time. Luckily, I served well and managed to play a percentage game,” Frech said.
“It’s pre-season preparations for me and that makes it doubly tough. Now, I have Kuzmova in the semi-finals, and that’s not going to be easy either. She serves well and is always a tough player to beat. But the idea is to get to the final,” the 24-year-old admitted.
However, the Slovak is also focused on a first-ever title here following her runner-up spot in 2018. “It’s my sixth year here and it is high time I take the trophy,” Kuzmova said. “This is a grand tournament at the end of a season and I want to do my best and win here. Times have been tough for me, but I think I have the game to go all the way and win this trophy on Sunday.”
Since last year, Kuzmova has been dealing with severe health issues including Pulmonary Edema [water retention in the lungs] followed by Deep Vein Thrombosis [DVT] in her left leg earlier this season. “The last two years have been tough, but fortunately, my game is coming back and I get this feeling that I can make it happen this time.”
Viktoria Kuzmova bt Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-3; Magdalena Frech bt Anastasia Zakharova 6-4, 6-1; Carole Monnet bt Diana Shnaider 2-6, 6-4, 7-5; Elsa Jacquemot bt Rebecca Sramkova 6-1, 6-4.
Kateryna Bondarenko/Magdalena Frech beat Peangtarn Plipuech/Fang-Hsien Wu 6-3, 7-6 (5); Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic beat Barbara Haas/Sinja Kraus 6-0, 6-1.