Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez continued her strong run of form in Monterrey, defeating Viktoria Kuzmova 7-5, 6-3 to move into the Abierto GNP Seguros semifinals.
Fernandez, 18, reached the Monterrey quarterfinals in her tournament debut last season and has gone one further this week without the loss of a set.
Fernandez had to fight past a challenging opponent in Kuzmova. The Slovakian qualifier nearly ended Fernandez's perfect set record this week.
"It was definitely tough," Fernandez said in her post-match press conference. "She went through qualies, she’s in the quarterfinals, and obviously she wants to win. She has a lot of experience playing in singles and in doubles, but I was very happy that I found a way and got through to the next round."
Yet to drop a set 👀— wta (@WTA) March 19, 2021
18 year old 🇨🇦 Leylah Annie Fernandez, moves on to the semifinals in ☀️ Monterrey.
Defeats Kuzmova, 7-5, 6-3 and will face the winner of Sorribes Tormo and Schmiedlova. pic.twitter.com/8B9JSHcB6a
In a tightly-contested first set, Kuzmova swatted away a set point at 5-4 with some strong serving, and an 18-point game followed, where Fernandez had to fend off four break points before she held on for 6-5.
A 16-point game came up next, where Fernandez broke Kuzmova to clinch the opening set after a grueling 75 minutes of play. The second set was more straightforward, although Fernandez let a 5-0 lead wobble and needed five match points before capturing the win.
"After losing the first few match points, I tried to change it up, change the way I was thinking," Fernandez said. "I knew that she was going to fight until the end. I tried to do the same thing, and on my fifth match point, I was able to execute the plan that I had."
Fernandez's semifinal opponent will be last week's Guadalajara champion Sara Sorribes Tormo, who defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 6-3, 7-5.
After 2 hours and 17 minutes, No.7 seed Sorribes Tormo won her seventh straight match.
Sorribes Tormo is now 12-4 on the season, with her first WTA singles title and a new career-high ranking of World No.57 to show for her efforts.
No.8 seed Ann Li also joined the semifinal lineup with a 7-5, 6-1 win against No.3 seed Zheng Saisai.
"She was really tricky, and I’m glad I was able to stay tough and win that match," Li said following her quarterfinal victory. "Another tough match under my belt, which is good, it helps with the confidence."
The 20-year-old Li, who reached her first WTA singles final at the Grampians Trophy in Melbourne earlier this season, improved her 2021 win-loss record to 9-1 with the 1-hour, 48-minute win over Zheng.
Like Fernandez, Li also had to outlast her opponent in a difficult first set. Li led 3-1 to start before Zheng won three games in a row to move ahead by a break at 4-3.
The power hitting by Li allowed her to rebound, and the American was able to break for the one-set lead, converting her second set point after Zheng misfired into the net.
"I was doing a little bit too much in the beginning, and I think trying to find the balance between being more patient and staying as aggressive as I can, that was kind of the key for me," Li said.
Li had a much easier time in the second set, racing to a 5-0 lead before Zheng was able to get on the board. Li had no trouble serving out the match at 5-1, as she also claimed her place in the semifinals without the loss of a set thus far.
Li's semifinal opponent will be another player who has already reached a final this season: qualifier Viktorija Golubic, who finished as runner-up to Clara Tauson in Lyon just two weeks ago.
Golubic booked her semifinal spot this week with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over fellow qualifier Anna Kalinskaya in 96 minutes. The World No.102 from Switzerland has now reached two WTA semifinals in one season for the first time since 2016, when she won the title in Gstaad and reached the final of Linz.
"Obviously I'm really happy with the week," said Golubic, who has won 11 of her past 12 matches spanning the qualifying and main draws at Lyon and Monterrey.
"Coming so far again, changing from indoors, I had [lots of] travel, I just practiced two days and then I started again," Golubic said. "So it's unbelievable what I'm doing, and I'll just keep going."