MALLORCA, Spain -- Reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber of Germany kept her hopes alive for her first WTA singles title of 2019, as the No.1 seed moved past No.6 seed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-3, 7-6(5), to claim a semifinal spot at the Mallorca Open.
"It’s really nice to be in the semis here, it’s a great tournament," Kerber said, after the match. "I played really good; it’s the first tournament on grass, so I’m looking forward to playing the semis right now."
World No.6 Kerber extended her head-to-head lead against Garcia to 6-2 following her one-hour and 35-minute victory over the Frenchwoman, which was their first meeting on grass. Kerber also ended the seven-match winning streak of last week’s Nottingham champion Garcia.
The top-seeded German won 73 percent of points on her first serve during the clash, and fired 23 winners to just 13 unforced errors. World No.23 Garcia had 24 winners, but ten more unforced errors than Kerber, with 23. The Frenchwoman faced seven break points and was broken by Kerber four times.
Kerber will take on World No.13 Belinda Bencic in the semifinals, after 3rd-seeded Bencic dispatched 5th-seeded teenager Amanda Anisimova in the quarterfinals earlier on Friday. Bencic has a slim 3-2 head-to-head lead over Kerber in their rivalry.
"Against Belinda, we’ve had so many tough matches in the last few years, and months," Kerber stated. "She plays really good tennis, especially in the last few weeks, so I know it will be a tough match, but I think also a good match on a really high level."
Kerber kicked off the match with a service break, using a strong return to cause a backhand error by Garcia on break point. The German had three break points to claim an immediate double-break advantage, but Garcia used her fierce forehand to grind out the hold, staying within touching distance at 2-1.
But after Kerber pulled through a tough four-deuce game to hold for 3-1, the German did not give up control of the opening frame. At 5-3, a note-perfect backhand lob by the top seed fell just inside the court to put her up 0-30; two points later, she forced a wide error from Garcia to reach double set point. Kerber converted the first chance with a winning backhand passing shot.
Garcia fought back hard in the second set, breaking Kerber at love for an initial 3-2 lead. But the German struck back immediately, leveling at 3-3, then blasted a powerful service return to break Garcia once more and reach 5-3.
Serving for the match, Kerber staved off one break point and garnered a first match point, but Garcia fired a return winner off the backhand side to erase that chance and extend the encounter. A double fault by Kerber gave Garcia a second break point of the game, which she converted by forcing an error with another strong service return.
The players moved into the tiebreak, where Garcia opened up a commanding 5-2 lead with aggressive play. But Kerber, who was 6-0 in tiebreaks coming into the match, reeled off a series of points to make her way back into the breaker, reaching 5-5 after a fiery forehand forced a wide volley from Garcia.
Garcia then double faulted, giving Kerber a second match point at 6-5. The German took that opportunity, hitting a deep forehand to force one last error from Garcia, thereby winning the final five points of the match and improving to 7-0 in tiebreaks on the season as she eased into the Mallorca Open semifinals.