Veronika Kudermetova gave quite a scare to the ninth seed but ultimately missed her opportunity at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships Wednesday. The Russian went the distance against Garbine Muguruza, who found a way to increase her aggression towards the end to take the second-round match 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 on Centre Court.
The Russian and the Spaniard were meeting for the first time, after having played very different matches to begin the tournament. Kudermetova went deep against Dayana Yastremska, edging the Ukrainian late in the third set in a very challenging match. Muguruza meanwhile had the honor of playing tennis legend Kim Clijsters, who had a late surge in the second set but was taken down in straight sets.
With a new opponent in her way, the 26-year-old had to be ready for anything.
The wind became a factor right away, working well for Kudermetova as her deep court positioning gave her a slight advantage. The Russian got an early break for a 2-0 lead.
The Spaniard soon got on the board, but her opponent’s offense was too strong as she held to love in the fourth game. Muguruza waited for her chance to strike, and that came in the sixth game as she broke Kudermetova to serve for a chance at a lead.
The Russian broke back to remain in front, but another break for Muguruza kept her even as the set neared its finish. Two consecutive holds of serve made it five-all, as neither player seemed willing to take her foot off the gas.
Muguruza then made a huge statement in the 11th, allowing Kudermetova just one point in her service game - which subsequently allowed her to put pressure on the Russian's serve. The Spaniard soon reached three set points with some big groundstrokes, and completed the job in 53 minutes.
The second set started with both players putting in strong holds, but a dip from Muguruza allowed Kudermetova to grab the initiative. The Russian broke in the third game and edged ahead 3-1 with a hold in the fourth.
Kudermetova soon had a double break, putting her in the driver's seat to force a third set. The ninth seed ended her four-game slide in the sixth game, breaking Kudermetova while holding her to just one point.
Also get: the full Dubai Tennis Championships 2020 Results
But Muguruza's comeback was short-lived, as four subsequent holds of serve allowed the 22-year-old to clinch the set. After 46 minutes of play, it was clear that neither one had a strong advantage as the first serve for both stood under 50 percent - with each committing three double faults.
At the start of the third set, Muguruza held confidently followed by another quick hold from the Russian. They remained on serve through six games, with the Spaniard leading the way and showing an improvement on first serve points won.
The set remained very tight until the ninth game, where the Spaniard pulled out all the stops to hold. With a 5-4 lead, she used every trick in the book to attack Kudermetova's serve and finally got the break, to win the match in 2 hours and 24 minutes.
“I think it was a very spot match for both of us,” replied Muguruza after the match to WTA’s Pete Odgers. “I knew it was going to be hard and that Veronika has been playing well. I'm excited to get the victory in those tough matches.”