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By Tennis Now | Thursday, February 22, 2018

Garbiñe Muguruza

Garbiñe Muguruza beat Caroline Garcia for the second time in a week, 7-5, 6-2, powering into the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Finishing her last match a few hours before sunrise, Garbiñe Muguruza needed no wake-up call for a Top 10 rematch.

Thumping deep drives, Muguruza beat Caroline Garcia for the second time in a week, 7-5, 6-2, powering into her second straight semifinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

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A week after the Wimbledon winner rallied to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Garcia en route to the Doha final, she unleashed a convincing close to beat the 24-year-old Frenchwoman for the third time in as many meetings.

"I'm very pleased," Muguruza said afterward. "It's very tough to play the same opponents all the time, and I'm happy that I won again. Last week was three sets, and this time, I was able to win it in two."

The two-time Grand Slam champion finished her round of 16 win over American wild card CiCi Bellis at about 2 a.m. today.

Showing no signs of sluggishness, Muguruza was eager from the start.

"It's tough. I was thinking about going straight to breakfast after I finished last night's match," Muguruza said. "But these things happen, and I need to be prepared, so I felt good today."

A slight misty rain began to fall in the ninth game.

Both women were stalking the baseline trying to take the first strike. A quality 21-shot rally saw the pair stand toe-to-toe driving the ball down the middle before Garcia missed a forehand to face a break point. Garcia saved three break points in a gritty hold for 5-4.

Muguruza answered with a love hold then applied break point pressure again. Garcia's first double fault gave the Spaniard two more break points. Ripping a forehand return winner, Muguruza earned the first break in the 11th game.

Grinding through a baseline exchange, Muguruza drew a netted backhand for set point. The forehand failed Garcia again as Muguruza made one break stand up taking the 62-minute opening set.

While Garcia tried to take charge in rallies she was more error-prone spraying 29 unforced errors—more than doubling Muguruza.

The Frenchwoman held to start the second but the rain increased about 72 minutes into the match prompting about a six-minute delay.

When play resumed, Muguruza went on a four-game tear torching through 12 straight points building a 4-1 lead after 94 minutes. The Spaniard double faulted on break point as Garcia finally slowed her stall.

The world No. 3 laced an ace for double match point closing in one hour, 48 minutes to reach her second Dubai semifinal.

Muguruza will meet Daria Kasatkina for a place in the final. 

In an all-Russian clash, Kasatkina won the final four points of the tie break in a 7-6 (5), 6-1, victory over her good friend Elena Vesnina.

The 20-year-old Kasatkina was down 3-5 in the tiebreak when Vesnina ended a fierce 28-shot rally netting a drop shot. The Indian Wells champion missed successive backhands as Kasatkina earned a set point.

A tremendous defensive dig in the corner extended the point and Kasatkina fired a forehand pass to take the set.

In a rematch of the 2016 US Open final, Angelique Kerber defused Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 6-3, surging into her third semifinal in four tournaments this year.

The two-time Grand Slam champion has worked on using her legs and shoulder turn more on serve and was rewarded for those efforts today.

The sixth-seeded German served 58 percent, dropped just eight points on first serve, hit one more ace than Pliskova and did not face a break point in a reaching her third semifinal of the year.

Kerber clocked her 16th winner to close in 75 minutes.

"I was playing quite good today, serving well was the key for the match," Kerber said. "She hit the ball really hard, serving good. I was trying to put good returns back, and just play my game."

The former world No. 1 raised her 2018 record to 15-2.

The 30-year-old Kerber will face Elina Svitolina for a place in the final.

The top-seeded Svitolina scorched Naomi Osaka, 6-2, 6-4.

Svitolina has beaten Kerber four times in a row and owns a 6-5 lead in their head-to-head series, winning eight of the last nine sets they've played.

Defending Dubai champion Svitolina is playing for her second title of the season and 11th career title.

Though she hasn't been satisfied with her level, Svitolina is pleased with how she's handled pressure defending Dubai.
B "Definitely I'm happy the way I've been handling the pressure and tough moments," Svitolina said. "I had two good matches. I cannot say it was amazing tennis, but when I needed to I was stepping up and playing well. I just stayed in the moment, I was fighting, waiting for my opportunity, trying to earn opportunities. This was pretty much it. She gave me a chance and I took it. This was the key."


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