No.9 seed Garbiñe Muguruza extended her superb run of form in the Middle East on Thursday, as she fought past No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semifinals.
Muguruza defeated Sabalenka for the second time in two weeks, as the former World No.1 beat the Belarusian en route to the Qatar Total Open final last week. Muguruza needed one hour and 44 minutes to repeat the feat and reach the semifinals in Dubai for the third time in her career (also in 2015 and 2018).
"I felt like she came out today more aggressive than our last match in Doha," Muguruza said. "I felt like she wanted to play more aggressive, faster, serving big, and I kind of struggled to find my shots, my game, and she quickly broke me with the serve and took [the first set].
"But then I tried to be more aggressive as well. If you have somebody in front of you that is trying to win the point in a couple of shots, you have to be faster and stronger, so I tried to be dominant after. Then everything was more equal. I felt more in the points."
Muguruza, still seeking her first trip to the Dubai final, picked up her WTA-leading 16th match-win of the season by firing 23 winners, outpacing her 20 unforced errors, and converting five of her 11 break points.
Sabalenka had 26 winners but saw her unforced error count creep upwards as the match progressed, and she finished with 34 miscues.
Sabalenka saved two break points in the first game of the match, then would not face any more for the remainder of the first set. Sabalenka grabbed the only break of the opening frame at 3-1, then smoothly powered her way to the one-set lead, clinching it with a winning overhead.
Muguruza fell behind a break in the opening game of the second set, but wrested the momentum from there, blasting incredible returns with ease to take Sabalenka’s next two service games and move ahead 3-1. Muguruza had no trouble on her service games for the rest of the set, leveling the clash at one set apiece with a love hold.
Muguruza refused to yield in the decider, and, after an early exchange of breaks, her strong serves and forehands either garnered her outright winners or drew errors from the Sabalenka racquet with regularity. A double-break lead for 5-2 put Muguruza firmly in control, and she closed out the match with another service hold at love to defeat Sabalenka once more.
Awaiting Muguruza in the semifinals will be Sabalenka’s current doubles partner, Elise Mertens. No.10 seed Mertens saved three match points before overcoming Jessica Pegula in an earlier quarterfinal.
In the nightcap match, Jil Teichmann completed the semifinal lineup with a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 victory over American teenager Coco Gauff.
It was already the third meeting this season between Teichmann and Gauff; Teichmann had in fact lost her first two matches of the year to Gauff, falling to the 16-year-old in the first round of the Gippsland Trophy and the Australian Open.
Since then, though, Teichmann has gone 10-2, making the quarterfinals or better in her last three tournaments, and notching her second straight semifinal showing with her first win over Gauff in 73 minutes.
Teichmann did not face a break point in the opening frame, and she clinched the pivotal service break to lead 5-3 after a netted forehand by Gauff. Teichmann held at love to claim the one-set lead and put Gauff on the back foot.
A break in the first game of the second set gave Teichmann additional momentum, and the Swiss player withstood Gauff's only three break points of the match before gritting out a tough service hold for 3-1. Teichmann broke serve one more time to close out the match and reach the first WTA 1000 semifinal of her career.
Next up for Teichmann will be Barbora Krejcikova in the semifinals, guaranteeing an unseeded finalist this week in Dubai.