Dubai: Sixth seed Angelique Kerber is looking forward to her semi-final rematch against top seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina in the Dubai Duty Free Championship 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.
On Thursday, both 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.
“I sincerely hope we can replicate last year. She [Svitolina] played unbelievable last year, and I believe she still has a lot of confidence, especially here where she won last year. It will be a tough match,” Kerber said of their meet-up.
“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 German added.
But before that, the world No. 9 had to navigate her way past another former world No. 1, Pliskova. Kerber 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.
“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 said.
“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.
Meanwhile, the 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 had couple of tough matches against her [Osaka]. I had to be ready for her to come back,” Svitolina said.
“The match that we played in Tokyo [a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win for Osaka in 2017], I was up. It was a little bit frustrating for me to lose that match, so I had to be ready for her to raise her level,” she added.
Osaka was left struggling with her first serves, and that was enough of a loophole for the defending champion to attack her opponent’s second serves while winning 20 of the 29 points played in the match and win five of seven break points.
“Definitely I’m happy the way I’ve been handling the pressure and tough moments,” Svitolina said.
“I had two good matches. I cannot say that was amazing tennis, but when I needed I was stepping up and playing well,” she added.
The next two quarter-finals were scheduled later in the evening with second seed Garbine Muguruza facing fifth seed Caroline Garcia, while Daria Kasatkina took Elena Vesnina in a fight between two Russians.
Elina Svitolina bt Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4
Angelique Kerber bt Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3
Caroline Garcia vs Garbine Muguruza
Daria Kasatkina vs Elena Vesnina
Alicja Rosolska/Abigail Spears bt Latisha Chan/Andrea Sestini Hlavackova 1-6, 7-6, 10-8