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Zhuhai | Muguruza outlasts Sevastova to reach semis

Garbiñe Muguruza came through a tough and thrilling three-setter against Anastasija Sevastova to reach the semi-finals of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Friday, 6-7(4) 6-2 7-6(1).

I’m here to play good matches, and I know tomorrow,  it’ll be a tough battle [but] these matches are going to give me a lot of confidence Garbine MUguruza

The former World No 1and two-time Grand Slam champion was made to work for it in her final round-robin match of the Camellia Group, and in the process, she saved 3 match points, proving she still can conjure up the resilience and mettle that, at times, has been missing this season.

“These matches are the ones that really count. It’s long, it’s difficult, you have match points against you, you don’t lose your courage, you don’t lose your enthusiasm. And it worked today,” said a serious Muguruza in her on-court interview.

Both players had already defeated Zhang Shuai in their opening matches of the Camellia Group, giving this contest the feel of a knockout match, with a semi-final slot on the line for the winner.

It proved to be a rollercoaster affair, with the momentum starting with the 2nd-seeded Latvian, before shifting to her 25-year-old opponent, and then back again.

Sevastova seemed to have the match in her grasp but allowed 3 match points to slip away against the tenacious Spaniard, whose will to win on this occasion was remarkable.

The World No 11 made the better start, persistently outworking her opponent, whose power game was misfiring.

The Latvian eased into a 4-1 lead, prompting a feisty exchange between Muguruza and her coach at the change of ends, which prompted the Spaniard to produce some of her best tennis.

Increasingly she charged to the net and, for the first time, she was playing the match on her terms.

Although she passed up one fine break point opportunity as she hit into the net with half an open court beckoning, she was soon level.

Sevastova stopped the three-game rot to move ahead 5-4, then got her nose into the lead once more at 6-5.

An intense 10-minute, 20-point game followed that Muguruza struggled to put away before finally forcing the tiebreak.

In that decisive game, both players started explosively, with some stunning exchanges.

Sevastova, however, showed greater aggression and consistency to take it 7-4, much to the frustration of her opponent.

After a first set that lasted comfortably over an hour, Muguruza was halfway to winning the second within 9 minutes, winning the opening three games for the loss of just 3 points.

Within the blink of an eye, she was 5-0 up, and only a precise ace, deft drop-shot and fine lob prevented Sevastova from losing just a second set of 2018 to love, having been just a point away from doing so.

Her blushes were further spared as she earned another game back, but Muguruza took the set 6-2.

Following treatment on her back between the second and third, Sevastova came out for the decider firing on all cylinders.

She established a 2-0 lead but, by the midway point in the set, the players were locked as Muguruza won 3 successive games once more.

A remarkable set moved back in the favour of the Latvian as she broke in the 9th game, but she faced tremendous resolve from Muguruza when she served for the match.

Three match points came and went, the last as the Spaniard cracked a dramatic winner down the line before going on to break.

There was drama in the following game, too, as Sevastova saw a break point slip away, although she did force the tiebreak by subsequently holding serve.

The momentum, though, was with Muguruza, who dominated the tiebreak to progress to the final four, sealing her semi-final berth with a fine down-the-line winner after 2 hours and 44 minutes of thrilling play.

Muguruza joins Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Germany’s Julia Georges in Saturday’s semi-finals, the first Spanish player to move into the knock-out after Suárez Navarro fell in the round robin in 2015.

“I’m here to play good matches, and I know tomorrow,  it’ll be a tough battle [but] these matches are going to give me a lot of confidence,” concluded the Spaniard, after fighting hard to register her first victory over a Top 20 player since February.



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