ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - No.8 seed Elena Rybakina staved off elimination to reach her third semifinal of the season at the St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy.
The World No.25 saved two match points in the second set to beat French qualifier Oceane Dodin, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-2, to book a spot in the final four in two hours and 27 minutes.
"I'm really happy, because it's the first time I'm in the semifinals at a big event," Rybakina said after the match. "I didn't play my best here in the last two rounds, but I'm happy to be in the semifinals. I like this tournament so much. I had a great experience here [in her last appearance in 2018]. I just enjoy playing here."
From holding a 40-0 lead on serve in the 10th game of the second set, Rybakina was one point away from defeat, as the World No.159 had two opportunities to score her fifth victory of the week, and her second over a seeded player after upsetting No.4 seed Johanna Konta in the second round.
However, the dramatic hold kicked off a run of seven straight games that saw Rybakina wrestle command of the match, as she dropped just one point behind her first serve in the decider.
"I lost the first set when I was up, so it was not easy. I was focusing on every point, and I served well," Rybakina assessed. "I saved the match points in my service games, and after the second set, I was feeling more confident. I played a really good third set and physically I was also fine. In important moments, I had some problems, but still I managed to win."
The Kazakh was forced to ultimately rally from a set down despite having led 5-2 in the first set, as Dodin saved four set points. The French 23-year-old, seeking her first WTA semifinal since the summer of 2017, won the last four points of the ensuing tiebreak as well, coming back from 3-0 and 5-3 deficits.
In a high-quality affair, Rybakina ultimately racked up 53 winners to 23 unforced errors, serving a whopping 15 aces, while Dodin totaled 31 winners to 20 unforced and seven aces of her own.
In her prior appearance in St. Petersburg in 2018, Rybakina, who was a wildcard into qualifying and ranked World No.450, not only reached the main draw but upset then-World No.7 Caroline Garcia en route to the quarterfinals. The Russian-born Kazakh went one better with Friday's dramatic victory, and will next face No.6 seed Maria Sakkari for a spot in the final. Greece's No.1 pulled off a comeback of her own to reach the final four, coming from a set and a break down to beat top seed Belinda Bencic.
Rybakina became the second player to seal her place in Saturday's semifinals, shortly after Russian No.1 Ekaterina Alexandrova advanced thanks to Petra Kvitova's withdrawal due to illness.