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By Tennis Now | Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Elina Svitolina

Defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina fought off lucky loser Qiang Wang, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, setting up a quarterfinal clash with Naomi Osaka.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Elina Svitolina stared down danger in the desert with a determined close.

The defending Dubai champion fought off lucky loser Qiang Wang, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, advancing to a Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarterfinal clash with Naomi Osaka.

Watch: Muguruza Expects Turnover At Top

It is Svitolina's sixth straight win in Dubai coming a year after she conquered Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4, 6-2, in the final to take the title and make her Top 10 debut.

Much has changed in the past year, but Svitolina showed her familiar tenacity against the 46th-ranked Chinese, who pushed the Ukrainian to a third-set tie break before bowing in Indian Wells last March.

Covering the court quickly, Wang tested the top seed today. Svitolina battled herself as well spraying 53 unforced errors—doubling her opponent's error output —but dug in to deliver a strong decisive set.

"It was a great match from her," Svitolina said. "I think she was playing quite solid throughout the match. For me, I was trying to find my game and going for a little bit too much...But I'm very pleased the way I played in the end."

Cruising through the opening set, Svitolina began losing her range as Wang raced out to a 5-2 second-set lead.

Serving at 4-5, Svitolina stood tall saving three set points.

On the second set point, Svitolina smacked a two-handed backhand down the line. Wang had a good look at a weak 64 mph serve, but jerked a forehand return as Svitolina withstood the stress eventually holding for 5-all.

A fiercely-contested 11th game escalated into the longest of the set.

Both ladies lanced the lines in a physical game. Wang saved break points then pumped a serve winner down the middle after a five-deuce struggle. Wang crunched a crosscourt forehand capping a gritty hold for 6-5.

Jitters struck Svitolina, who squandered a 40-lead. Wang hammered returns off some shallow second serves and Svitolina began pushing her groundstrokes.

Sending a backhand long the top seed faced a fourth set point nearly 20 minutes after she fended off three set points.

This time, Wang sealed the deal. Svitolina jerked her signature shot, the two-hander, wide as Wang took the set to level after one hour, 22 minutes.

An increasingly sloppy Svitolina committed 26 unforced errors to Wang's 10 in the 54-minute second set.

Resetting after a bathroom break, Svitolina returned wearing a fresh pale pink outfit and showing renewed aggression.

The world No. 4 broke to start the decider, saved a break point with a fine forehand down the line and banged her way through confirmation for 2-0.

Sliding a backhand down the line, Svitolina broke again for 4-1.

The 23-year-old Ukrainian dodged a break point backing up the break.

Wang saved a match point in the seventh game forcing Svitolina to serve it out.

A clean backhand strike down the line sealed a two hour, 10-minute struggle vaulting Svitolina into the final against the explosive Osaka, who knocked off Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

"She's a very aggressive player," Svitolina said of Osaka. "I've played against her a couple of times. We will see how it's gonna go. It's definitely going to be a great match so I will try to bring my best game."

Indian Wells champion Elina Vesnina knocked off reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, 6-1, 7-6 (6), to reach her first quarterfinal since she won Indian Wells last March.

The fourth-seeded Ostapenko fell to 3-6 on the season after suffering her fourth opening-round exit in six tournament starts this season.

Vesnina deployed the drop shot at 6-all in the tie break drawing a running forehand error from Ostapenko.

"I'm really happy to have won this match," Vesnina said. "At the end it was really close. We were both giving our best and we were fighting the end. It was set point, then match point, it was up and down.

"Jelena is a young star and she's a really good player. It's tough to beat her."

The 23rd-ranked Vesnina will play her friend and compatriot, Daria Kasatkina, for a semifinal spot.

The 20-year-old Kasatkina  saved two match points in the tie break rallying past seventh-seeded Johanna Konta, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Kasatkina charged back from a one-set, 1-3 deficit. Konta held match points at 6-4 in the tie break, but Kasatkina answered with four straight points to force a final set.

Kasatkina, who 21 winners and broke serve seven times to defeat former champion Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday, scored her 13th career win over a Top 20 player, including her upset of world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in St. Petersburg earlier this month.

Karolina Pliskova showed her grit bouncing back from a one-set deficit defeating Carla Suárez Navarro, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to power into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarterfinals for the second time in the last four years.

It was Pliskova's fourth win in seven meetings with Suárez Navarro.

"I didn't play well," Pliskova said. "We were both struggling a little bit. I've not played many matches in the last couple of weeks since I arrived from Melbourne, so I'm just finding my rhythm."

The third-seeded Czech fired 11 aces in a two hour, two minute win.

Pliskova will face former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber next in a rematch of the 2016 US Open final.

The sixth-seeded Kerber crushed former French Open finalist Sara Errani, 6-4, 6-2, in 64 minutes.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber raised her record to 14-2 on the season.


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