Dubai: Slovakia’s promising youngster Viktoria Kuzmova is ready to take on any opposition after becoming the youngest of the four semi-finalists at the 21st Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being played at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa.
In Thursday’s quarter-finals, the 20-year-old who has so far won 14 singles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit, vouched she is prepared to give more than a 100 per cent to achieve her tennis dreams after a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win against experienced German Mona Barthel.
Top seed and pre-tournament favourite Kristina Mladenovic made a disappointing exit with a back injury when trailing 28-year-old Swiss girl Stefanie Voegele 2-6, 0-3, while in the battle of the 30-plus players it was unseeded Peng Shuai coming through 6-3, 6-2 against third seed, Tatjana Maria of Germany.
The former doubles Grand Slam champion from China will meet sixth-seeded Voegele in Friday’s semi-final, while Kuzmova will take on Evgeniya Rodina in the second semi-final.
Now the youngest in the field, the 20-year-old Kuzmova — with a current ranking of 56 — was more than prepared to give her best moving into the last four. “For me, this win in the quarter-finals was a test to see how much I could push myself against some of these more experienced players on the tour. I was down, but I knew I had it in me to fight back and dictate terms to my opponent. In the end I am pleased to come through and move into the semi-finals,” Kuzmova told Gulf News.
“Entering the semi-final was like my first goal. Now I am willing to give more than 100 per cent to take the next step,” she added.
Barthel was never an easy opponent, especially after the lanky 28-year-old German had done enough to take the opening set 6-4. Kuzmova held her poise and broke in the fifth of the second set to go 3-2 up, but Barthel broke right back for 3-3 and then held for 4-3. But the German player couldn’t hold on for long as Kuzmova broke a second time to serve out the second set 6-4.
The deciding third too wasn’t easy as Kuzmova started off with an early break, but Barthel came right back. The clever Slovak then broke a second time and held for 3-1 and from then onwards it was a smooth ride as Kuzmova booked her place in the semi-finals where she will meet fourth seed Evgeniya Rodina — a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 winner against eighth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.
In the last quarter-finals, Peng became the lone unseeded player in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over third seed Tatjana Maria of Germany.
(Quarter-finals singles) Viktoria Kuzmova bt Mona Barthel 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; Evgeniya Rodina bt Tamara Zidansek 4-6, 7-5, 7-5; Stefanie Voegele bt Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 3-0 (retired); Shuai Peng bt Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-2.
Semi-finals on Friday: (10am) Evgeniya Rodina vs Viktoria Kuzmova; (1pm) Stefanie Voegele vs Peng Shuai; (11.30am) Renata Voracova/Tamara Zidansek vs Cornelia Lister/Reka Luca Jani; Olga Govortsova/Mandy Minella vs Alena Fomina/Valentina Ivakhnenko.