Spain’s Garbine Muguruza defeated Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the Qatar Open where she will face former fellow world number one and two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.
Muguruza was a force to be reckoned with throughout, calmly applying pressure to her rival who could not contend with her power and precision with the Spaniard hitting four aces.
She quickly went ahead 4-0 in the first set and finished without dropping serve, although having to overcome break points in the last game before prevailing.
“I’m happy, I felt good on court,” former Wimbledon and Roland Garros champion Muguruza said after her victory.
“So far I’m happy to be back, trying to get closer and closer (to the final).”
Azarenka, a two-time winner of the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, reached the last four by seeing off Ukrainian top seed Elina Svitolina, 6-2, 6-4.
“Every match is hard, it’s always difficult,” added Muguruza as she looked ahead to her clash with Azarenka.
Muguruza knocked defending champion Aryna Sabalenka out of the tournament on Wednesday in a three-set marathon.
On Thursday, it was a deft backhand that took Muguruza, the 2018 Doha runner-up, to match point within 70 minutes.
Belarus’ Azarenka improved to 4-0 against Ukraine’s Svitolina with an 85-minute win comfortably taking her to the 60th WTA semi-final of her career.
– ‘Playing really aggressive’ –
Azarenka dug deep, overcoming lingering back pain and medical attention to fire 25 winners, more than double the number Svitolina managed.
In the other quarter final action of the day, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova outfoxed Anett Kontaveit in three arduous sets, seeing off the Estonian 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
The second set threatened to derail Kvitova’s earlier momentum, with the Czech facing several service breaks.
“It was a kind of a rollercoaster, I would say. It’s tough to play Anett at any time,” said Kvitova after her victory.
“I’m really glad that after losing the second set, which I didn’t play the best probably, I started very well in the third and, you know (what) was important was the first break in the first game of the third set.”
Fourth seed Kvitova now faces American qualifier Jessica Pegula in the other semi-final on Friday.
Pegula, who made the Australian Open quarter-finals last month, broke through to the highest profile semi-final of her career so far with an upset against second seeded Karolina Pliskova, triumphing 6-3, 6-1.
After her victory she said that not dropping a single set coming out of qualifying was “definitely a confidence builder”.
“(In) Australia and here I have been playing really aggressive, whereas last year at the US Open I definitely wasn’t playing as aggressive,” she said.
“I actually wasn’t really feeling that confident in my game, but I was figuring out ways to win. I think because I’m moving so much better that I was relying a lot on my movement and my defence.”