SHENZHEN, China -- No.5 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia fought back from one set down to eliminate 4th-seeded Wang Qiang, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, and advance to the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open on Thursday.
"It wasn't easy, because [Wang] played extremely well, right from the first point," Alexandrova said, following her victory. "The third set was extremely tough, because she was everywhere! It was hard to play because every ball was coming back to me, and hopefully I was luckier on a few points in the third set, and I think that decided the game."
World No.34 Alexandrova had fallen in the second round of the event in the last two years, but has now broken through to the final four after ousting Wang, the Chinese No.1 and the last remaining homeland hope in the singles draw.
In the first meeting between the two players, Wang broke the Russian No.2 six times, but Alexandrova did her one better by claiming seven breaks of serve during the encounter, surviving six double faults to eke out the hard-fought victory.
"I had a good pre-season," Alexandrova added. "I played a tournament in Limoges, and I think it really helped because I had good tennis practice there." Last month, Alexandrova won the WTA 125K Series event in Limoges for the third time in the last four years.
Wang had the upper hand early as she quickly raced to a 4-1 advantage, winning points with incredible depth to move ahead in the match. The set ended with five consecutive breaks of service, culminating in an Alexandrova double fault to hand over the one-set lead to the Chinese player.
The initial break in the second set also went to Wang, and with a 6-3, 2-0 advantage, the home favorite was approaching a straight-set victory. However, the powerful play of Alexandrova began to find its targets more regularly, as the Russian used blistering groundstrokes to hit spots just inside the lines and pull herself into contention.
Four straight games quickly went the Russian's way as she charged to a 4-2 lead. Alexandrova moved to 5-3, where she missed three set points on the Wang serve, but in the next game, Wang fired a backhand wide on the Russian's fourth set point, leveling the clash.
In the decider, Wang dropped serve in the opening game, as the strong groundstrokes by Alexandrova persisted, and succeeded more often than not. The Russian never let up as she rolled to a 5-2, double-break lead, saving a break point at 2-1 along the way.
Serving for the match at 5-2, Alexandrova blinked, dropping serve after holding a match point. However, the Russian had no trouble closing out the match one game later, crushing a return winner down the line to wrap up the tightly contested affair.
Alexandrova's road will remain challenging, as the No.5 seed will now face 6th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, the former World No.1, in the final four, after Muguruza defeated Zarina Diyas earlier on Thursday.
Muguruza won their only prior meeting in straight sets, which came in the first round of Wimbledon in 2017. After winning that opening round, Muguruza went all the way to the Wimbledon title that year.
"We played once, but it was a few years ago," Alexandrova stated. "I lost, and I hope I can do better tomorrow!"