February 24 2018 – Dubai, UAE: Daria Kasatkina claimed a stunning 3-6 7-6 (11) 6-1 victory over Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday to set up a final showdown with defending champion Elina Svitolina, who defeated Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-3.
Although many might not be aware of the 20-year old Russian, Muguruza certainly was as Kasatkina held a match point against her when they last met a little over a year ago. That battle stretched to three hours and Muguruza only secured victory by winning the final set tiebreak. This time the tables were turned as Kasatkina fought off three match points in a dramatic tiebreak at the end of an incredible 86-minute second set before dominating a tiring Muguruza in the third.
'I think she likes to play when she's under pressure,' said Muguruza. 'Her best tennis comes when she's about to lose, I feel. I think she has a good fitness to be able to run a lot. I think that's what, you know, help her today. She was not missing a lot. She was inspired when she was under pressure. I had to all of a sudden hit an incredible shot or a winner or something like that to kind of break a little bit the rally.'
Having reached the final last week in Doha, it is understandable that Muguruza found herself running on empty in the final set.
'My game was fine,' she said. '(But) I feel I really struggled physically because I've been playing so many matches in a row. Today was very physical. At the third set I really notice it because my legs were starting to get very fatigue. I think all the accumulation came up a little bit. I'm going to deserve be just laying down at some hotel, swimming pool.'
It was the second time this week that Kasatkina has saved match points on the way to an upset victory, after she held off two match points against seventh seed Johanna Konta in the second round.
When asked how she had managed to win the match, she replied, 'Who knows. When you're winning from match points, you don't know why. I was just trying to fight for every ball because Garbine, she's playing unbelievable. She's very tough opponent. She's hitting so hard, playing so fast. I was just trying to do whatever I could.'
While Muguruza admitted to being weary at the end of the match, Kasatkina revealed that she was tired before the match even began.
'Actually, before the match I was really, really tired. When you're going on court, adrenaline is coming, and you just can forget about it. You start to run, blood start to run into your body, that's it. You're just focused on every ball. The tired is somewhere, going somewhere, yeah.'
Svitolina enjoyed a comfortable victory over an opponent she has now beaten in their last five meetings.
'Well, I'm happy that it was in two sets because before we had such tough battles. I'm very happy that I saved little bit more energy for my next opponent,' she said. 'I was really pleased the way I was playing the tough moments.'
Kerber has won a record-equalling 15 matches this year but admitted she was not at her best against Svitolina.
'I think it was not my best day,' she said. 'I mean, I was trying to find my rhythm. But especially in my serve, I couldn't find it. I think that I did too many easy mistakes. I think that was at the end the key.'
The doubles final will be between the fourth seeded team of Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng, who defeated top seeds and defending champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-1 3-6 10-7, and the unseeded pairing of Hao-Ching Chan and Zhaoxuan Yang who beat Alicja Rosolska and Abigail Spears 6-4 7-5.
'Daria Kasatkina's magnificent victory over the Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will live long in the memory,' said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. 'It was a quite fantastic performance against one of the very best players in the world, and it will be very interesting to see how she fares against our defending champion, Elina Svitolina. We can also look forward to a doubles final that will produce a new champion team. We wish everyone well.'
'We began with six players from the top 10 and have a player from outside the 20 in our final,' said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. 'That is not only a tribute to Daria Kasatkina but a reflection of the depth of talent that we have been able to enjoy throughout an entire week of wonderful tennis. We can now look forward to what will be a fascinating final.'
The WTA event concludes on 24th February and is followed between 26th February and 3rd March with the 26th staging of the ATP World Tour week, featuring an intriguing mix of talented young players and experienced champions, including world number four Grigor Dimitrov.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.