Russia’s Daria Kasatkina stunned second seed Garbine Muguruza to reach the final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday, while defending champion Elina Svitolina cruised past former world number one Angelique Kerber. Kasatkina, ranked 24 in the world, survived three match points and produced a high-intensity display to battle past world number three Muguruza 3-6 7-6(11) 6-1.
Muguruza started stronger and needed just one break point to claim the first set in clinical fashion but her opponent showed incredible resolve to push the second set to a tiebreak. It proved to be a roller-coaster deciding game and on one occasion, Kasatkina was forced to challenge a call in order to stay alive in the encounter with Hawkeye revealing her shot had clipped the line.
“I thought it was long, I was lucky,” Kasatkina said in her post-match interview. She picked up the second set and went on to break Muguruza three times to claim victory in just over two and a half hours.
It was the 20-year-old Russian’s first victory over the Spaniard as she continued her fine run of form against top-five ranked players, winning five of her eight meetings. “I was just trying to fight for every ball because Garbine, she’s playing unbelievable,” Kasatkina added. “She’s hitting so hard, playing so fast. I was just trying to do whatever I could.
“(Tomorrow) is a final already, so I have to put everything that’s left in my body into this match. I hope I will.” She will next face world number four Svitolina, who made quick work of Kerber in a 6-3 6-3 semi-final victory.
The 23-year-old Ukrainian has now won her last five encounters against the twice grand slam champion. The victory puts Svitolina within touching distance of becoming only the third women’s player, alongside Justine Henin and Venus Williams, to win successive Dubai titles.