LINZ, Austria -- No.8 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia moved one step closer to a return appearance in the Upper Austria Ladies Linz final on Friday, as she eased past former Top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-2, 6-4, in their quarterfinal clash.
Alexandrova reached her first WTA singles final at Linz last year, finishing as runner-up to Italian Camila Giorgi. The Russian No.1 now finds herself as the last remaining seeded player in the draw as she eyes a second straight trip to the Linz championship final.
"It’s always good to have some lucky place on the Tour," Alexandrova said, after her victory. "Linz especially, I love to play here, I love the city, I love everything, and I’m glad I can make it to the semifinal here again."
The Russian, currently ranked World No.35, ousted 46th-ranked Mladenovic after 75 minutes of play in their first-ever meeting. Alexandrova claimed nearly 70 percent of points off of the Mladenovic second serve as she converted four of her eight break points en route to the swift victory.
"I was just tired of playing three-set matches, so I just decided to play two, and I’m happy I did!" Alexandrova said with a laugh. The Russian won her first two rounds in three-set tussles.
Alexandrova took command of the match early, firing a stellar, error-forcing return to set up a break point at 3-2, which she converted after a netted forehand by Mladenovic. The Russian followed up with a quick hold to extend her lead to 5-2 as she zoomed ahead in the opening stanza.
An additional excellent return game from the leader at 5-2 brought her to another break point, which doubled as set point for the No.8 seed. Mladenovic faltered at that juncture, double faulting to cede a fourth consecutive game, and with it, the set, to Alexandrova.
Mladenovic, however, had designs on turning the match around in the second set. Powerful hitting from the Frenchwoman let her escape three break points en route to a hold for 2-2. In the following game, Alexandrova gave up her serve for the first time, as she double faulted down break point to hand Mladenovic a 3-2 lead.
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However, the Frenchwoman’s advantage was short-lived, as Alexandrova reclaimed the strength of her service returns and quickly raced to triple break point in the next game. On the second break point, a whopping return by the Russian set up a forehand winner down the line, and she was back level with Mladenovic at 3-3.
Mladenovic polished off a hold for 4-4 with back-to-back aces, but Alexandrova stayed in front after defending her serve for a 5-4 lead. The Russian then used her forehand to punch her way to double match point in the subsequent game, and she fired one final winner off of that side to clinch the victory and claim her spot in the final four of Linz once again.
Alexandrova will now face 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the semifinals. Ostapenko defeated Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, 7-5, 6-1, in Friday's nightcap quarterfinal.