NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - World No. 26 Daria Gavrilova of Australia clinched a semifinal spot at the Connecticut Open for the first time in her career on Thursday, with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens.
"The plan was to be aggressive, she's a very tricky player," said the 21-year-old in her on-court interview after the match. "It feels pretty good right now, I'm really happy with the way my tournament is going."
Flipkens was playing in her third New Haven quarterfinal in the last four years, and had beaten Gavrilova in their only previous meeting in 2012. But this time it was the Australian who got the upper hand in one hour and 45 minutes.
Both players initially struggled on serve, as there were break points in each of the first four games of the match. But Gavrilova was able to convert both of her break points in that stretch, while Flipkens couldn’t take any of the six she held, including five in a 15-minute game at 3-0.
After going down 4-0, Flipkens was finally able to claim a few quick holds in the set. But Gavrilova held on to take the set 6-2, thanks to her reliance on her effective forehand and some successful lobs over the net-rushing Belgian.
"After the first set, I looked at the stats, and I was like, 'Oh, I saved six break points, that's pretty good,'" said Gavrilova on court. "It gave me confidence every time I was break point down, I told myself, 'Just stick to your plan and be aggressive.'"
Flipkens, a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2013, kept the first set more competitive than the scoreline suggests, but could not recover from 13 unforced errors during the set, often at inopportune moments.
After saving a seventh break point in her first service game of the set, Gavrilova took the first break of the second set at 3-3, when a strong backhand service return caused Flipkens to hit a volley long and wide.
Flipkens had four more break points in the very next game to level the set at 4-4, but some strong serving by Gavrilova allowed her to erase them all. Two games later, Gavrilova hit a beautiful forehand winner on her second match point to close out the match.
The two players finished the match with an equal amount of unforced errors (27), but Gavrilova had 28 winners to Flipkens' 16, and three aces as opposed to none for the Belgian. Most importantly, Flipkens was unable to convert any of her 11 break points.
In the semifinals, Gavrilova takes on the winner of tonight's match between No.8 seed Peng Shuai and Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.1 seed and defending champion.
An additional semifinal place in New Haven was filled by Elise Mertens, another Belgian qualifier, who advanced when Zhang Shuai of China withdrew from their quarterfinal match due to injury.