No.12 seed Veronika Kudermetova reached the biggest semifinal of her career at the Mutua Madrid Open with a 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 win over No.3 seed Jessica Pegula in 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Kudermetova had previously reached three quarterfinals at WTA 1000 level or above, all in 2022 at Indian Wells, Roland Garros and Guadalajara, and this result moves her into the last four at this level for the first time. It also marks the 26-year-old's third semifinal appearance of 2023 following Adelaide 2 and Doha.
In a first-time encounter with 2022 finalist Pegula, Kudermetova also notched her seventh career Top 5 win, and first since defeating Ons Jabeur in the San Jose quarterfinals last August. She had entered Madrid on a four-match losing streak, but has now battled through four straight three-setters this fortnight, including saving two match points against Daria Kasatkina in the fourth round. The last player to make the final four here by winning a quartet of three-setters was 2016 runner-up Dominika Cibulkova.
4 - Veronika Kudermetova is the second player to reach a Madrid Open SF after four consecutive three setters after Dominika Cibulkova in 2016. Endure.#MMOPEN | @MutuaMadridOpen @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/j3INNcCojX— OptaAce (@OptaAce) May 3, 2023
Twists and turns: To claim victory, Kudermetova came out on top of two near-identical sets that bookended a mid-match whitewash.
Both the first and third sets featured five breaks of serve, with the quality of both players' returns exceeding that of their serves in the initial stages. Kudermetova twice went up a break first, but was pegged back both times -- but once she had captured the Pegula serve for a third time, managed to use that momentum to get over the finishing line.
Kudermetova's game evaporated in a 22-minute second set in which she committed 15 unforced errors and won just five points. But after a medical timeout, she resumed the gritty performance of the first set and played her most solid tennis to close out victory, converting her second match point with her fourth ace of the day.
In Kudermetova's words: "I feel so happy and proud of myself, because every match I played three sets. Before this match, every match was almost 3 hours. Today, only 2 hours -- I feel fresh!
"I think first set I start to play really well. On the return I do a lot of winners. I play rallies, I move her. I feel also she was a little bit tired today.
"First set was pretty good for myself, but in the second set, I think Jessica start to play a little bit more aggressive. I was maybe a little bit tired, but to be honest, in the second set I started laughing, 'Veronika, you want to kill yourself. Again, three-set battle.'
"But before the final set, I say to myself, 'Veronika, you need to try to do something, because if you will continue to play like this you will lose for sure. You need to start to play a little bit more aggressive.' It was very important to break her in the first game."