DUBAI, UAE – No.9 seed Garbiñe Muguruza came through a big-hitting encounter with Veronika Kudermetova, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, to continue her campaign at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Forced to battle past Kim Clijsters in her first round on Tuesday, the Australian Open finalist improved her 2020 record to 13-2 against an opponent who has typically thrived on the big stage.
Indeed, Kudermetova held a 3-2 winning record against Top 20 players coming into this match, but though she showed all of the determination that allowed her to come back from a double break down in her first-round encounter against Dayana Yastremska, she was unable to quite match the quality of the WTA World No.16.
The pair had been scheduled to meet in Hobart only for Muguruza to fall victim to a virus, but fully fit she came out on top in a tight encounter that lasted two hours 25 minutes.
“It was a hard-fought match. Veronika is playing very well. I’m excited to get the win in a tough match like this,” she said.
“I think she played super aggressive, super big serves. I've seen her results. She's just getting better and better.
“There's a lot of things that I could have done better. But I'm excited that I gave myself another opportunity to be in the quarterfinals, just staying in the fight because she was playing great, not giving up until the last point.”
Kudermetova spent much of the opening set in the ascendancy, aided by a rapid start to the match in which she broke the serve of the WTA Tour’s ace leader coming into this week without reply.
The momentum of the encounter would largely be dictated by which player was making a greater percentage of their first serves at any particular point, and the Russian came out of the blocks well in this regard.
She suffered a lull in the middle part of the set, with Muguruza punishing two weak second serves before crushing a passing shot by her 22-year-old rival. It set up a break to draw her level but a lengthy following game saw the Spaniard double fault three times as it escaped her.
The sequence of breaks continued as Kudermetova fired wide, pushing the momentum back into Muguruza’s favor. The two-time Dubai semifinalist might have missed a trio of set points as Kudermetova served to stay in the set, but the trend was in her direction and it resulted in a decisive break to love a couple of games later.
Just as in the first set, Kudermetova was the smarter starter in the second, sealing an early break as Muguruza threw in another untimely double fault. She then pushed out into a 4-1 advantage with a double break, and though the two-time Grand Slam champion started to regain some rhythm towards the end of the set, the Russian No.3 ultimately claimed it.
Muguruza, though, did not go down without a fight, saving three set points before it was ultimately claimed on the fourth occasion.
If the serve of the players had looked vulnerable in the opening two sets – both struggled to hit 50% of first serves - the third saw a more secure display from both. There was just a single break point fashioned from either player in the opening nine games, yet in the 10th excellent depth from Muguruza brought up a match point.
A lengthy rally saw the 26-year-old bury her rival in the forehand corner and ultimately claim a quarterfinal place against Jennifer Brady as the qualifier failed to dig the ball out on the stretch.
“Everybody's playing well today. When you're in quarterfinals, you're playing girls that are going through the tournament. She's playing good. I'm excited to play her for the first time, to get to know her tennis,” Muguruza concluded, looking ahead to meeting the American.