DUBAI, UAE - Defending champion Elina Svitolina came from a break down in the second set to see off Naomi Osaka and return to the semifinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in straight sets on Thursday, 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 to ease through to the last four and snap a two-match losing skid against the World No.48.
"I had couple of tough matches against her. I had to be ready for her to come back," Svitolina said after the match. "The match that we played in Tokyo [a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win for Osaka last fall]...I was up.
"It wasa a little bit frustrating for me to lose that match, so I had to be ready for her to raise her level."
The first set largely went according to plan for the top seed, as she built a 0-40 lead in the first game of the match and hardly looked back en route to building a 5-0 lead.
Nonetheless, the wildcard steadied herself to break the World No.4 as she served for the bagel, and added an easy hold to send Svitolina to the baseline for a second time.
The wildcard gave herself two break points for a third straight game in Svitolina's second attempt to serve out the opener, but ultimately, the top seed powered through on her second set point to move in front.
"I just stayed in the moment. I was fighting, waiting for my opportunity, trying to earn opportunities," Svitolina added. "She gave me this chance and I took it. This was the key."
Osaka came into Dubai having hit 43 aces in seven matches this season, and added eight in a pair of victories over players ranked above her this week in Kristina Mladenovic and Anett Kontaveit.
However, the Japanese 20-year-old couldn't find some of her biggest serves to extend the match against the World No.4, as she served just a shade over 50% for the match.
Afforded the opportunity to attack second serves, Svitolina won 20 of the 29 points played on the wildcard's second delivery in the match, as she won five of seven break points and was also given six double faults.
"Definitely I'm happy the way I've been handling the pressure and tough moments," the defending champion added. "I had two good matches. I cannot say was amazing tennis, but when I needed I was stepping up and playing well."
The top seed will next face the winner of the match between Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber for a spot in her second straight final in Dubai.