Svitolina takes out Kerber
Elina Svitolina is one victory away from successfully defending her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title
The Ukrainian defeated Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-3 to reach the championship match. Standing between the top seed and an 11th career-title is surprise finalist, Daria Kasatkina.
The Russian upset Garbine Muguruza in dramatic fashion. The 20-year-old saved three match-points in an elongated second set tiebreak before romping away with the decider and securing a 3-6 7-6(11) 6-1 success.
Kasatkina, who possesses a fearsome forehand, battled past Johanna Konta in the second round - saving two match-points in the process – and her fighting spirit helped her prevail against the shell-shocked Spaniard.
Svitolina had shaded her last four meetings with Kerber, including their showdown at the semi-final stage of Dubai last year, and she edged an unpredictable first set.
There were nearly 30 minutes on the clock before a first hold of serve was registered. The Ukrainian clung on to her delivery to move 4-2 ahead, and the former world No.1 failed to chip into her opponent’s advantage.
Unsurprisingly, the opening set was jam-packed with lengthy baseline exchanges between two exceptional movers. Svitolina was the more compact and reliable, though, while Kerber was never quite dialled-in to the task at hand.
With 15 wins to her name already this year, the German was always likely to respond in the second set. She converted her sixth break-point in a marathon third game to establish a well-earned lead, however her delight was short-lived.
Svitolina struck back immediately, and Kerber’s demeanour changed. It was a momentum killer for the 30-year-old, and she grew increasingly agitated with her level of performance.
The Ukrainian made the most of her rival’s struggles, and she was soon contemplating the possibility of departing the Middle East with yet more silverware.
“I’m very pleased with my performance today,” said the 23-year-old. “It was tough for both of us to handle the conditions, but I was happy with how I played in the tough moments. In the end, I’m just happy to be in the final."
Svitolina has encountered Kasatkina twice before, both on hard-courts, and is yet to taste defeat. The top seed is expected to be victorious on Saturday, but she is expecting another stiff test.
“Daria plays well,” she added. “She has had a few tough matches on the road to the final so it’s definitely going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”