Australian Open finalist, Garbine Muguruza seeks her fourth quarter final of the season when she takes on Russia's Veronika Kudermetova at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
Muguruza vs Kudermetova is live from Dubai on Wednesday, 19 February from 3:30pm local time/ 11:30am GMT
Muguruza has been in resurgent form this year, reaching at least the quarter finals in each of the three tournaments she has played this year- can the Spaniard keep it going in Dubai?
Her reunion with countrywoman, Conchita Martinez for the 2020 season has so far proven to be a great call, with the two-time major winner opening the year with an impressive 12-2 record. It sharply contrasts her forgettable ending to last season, when she won just one match after Roland Garros, and didn’t play again after an opening round loss to Sofia Kenin in Beijing. The former world No. 1 was down at a year-end mark of 36th.
Muguruza has more than halved that ranking this season, arriving Dubai at No. 16 in the world.
She began her year with a semi-final in Shenzhen (lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova), before reaching the quarter finals in Hobart, where she withdrew due to illness ahead of a meeting with Kudermetova. Muguruza recovered in time to produce a terrific run at the Australian Open, beating top-ten players, Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep en route the final, where she was eventually stopped in three sets by Sofia Kenin.
Playing her first tournament since Melbourne, Muguruza opened her Dubai campaign with a hard-fought 6-2 7-6 victory over the returning Kim Clijsters on Monday. Clijsters was playing her first match in over seven years, having decided to come out of retirement, but the 36-year-old looked surprisingly sharp, especially in the second set, when she battled back from a double break down to push the set into a breaker.
Muguruza held her nerve to fend off the Belgian, converting her second match point with a big first serve to claim victory after 97 minutes. Can the two-time Dubai semi-finalist keep it going when she faces Kudermetova on Wednesday?
Kudermetova is attempting to reach her second quarter final of the season, having made the semi-finals in her first main draw appearance of the year in Hobart. The 22-year-old had fallen in the final qualifying round in Brisbane in her opening tournament of the year, but she rebounded from that to make the last four in Hobart in the following week, beating Sam Stosur and Catherine Bellis before benefitting from a walkover against Muguruza in the quarter finals. She was stopped in the last four by Shuai Zhang.
She had a couple of quite tournaments after that, falling to Sara Sorribes Tormo in the first round of the Australian Open, and to Kiki Bertens in the second round in St. Petersburg, but she has been good this week in Dubai, coming through three rounds of qualifying, and taking out Dayana Yastremska in the opening round of the main draw.
Kudermetova seemed to be heading out of the tournament when she trailed by a double break in the final set against Yastremska, but she produced a remarkable fightback from 5-2 down, breaking twice as Yastremska served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4, before dominating the ensuing tie break to complete a 5-7 6-3 7-6 victory and improve to 3-0 against Yastremska.
Currently ranked 40th in the world, Kudermetova first broke into the top-100 last season, before going on to secure an impressive year-end ranking of 41st. A consistent campaign yielded semi-finals in s-Hertogenbosch, Hiroshima and Tianjin, and quarter finals in Shenzhen, Lugano, Istanbul, Nurnberg, and Moscow. She also made the third round at Roland Garros, upsetting Caroline Wozniacki in the first round, while she claimed a WTA 125K title in Guadalajara.
She has been a steady performer over the last year, and will look to outlast Muguruza when they meet for the first time in Dubai on Wednesday.
Muguruza has looked a lot more assured this year than she had done for most of the previous two seasons, and when she is confident, the Spaniard is right up there among the very best players in the world. An in-form Muguruza should be able to power past Kudermetova and into the quarter finals in Dubai on Wednesday.