Svetlana Kuznetsova played a brilliant match of tennis to move on at the Qatar Total Open Thursday. The two-time finalist gained an edge on fourth-seeded Belinda Bencic to win 6-4, 6-4 on centre court at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex. It was the first time the Russian made it back into the final four since 2007.
The fourth seeded Bencic picked up her second win in a row against the Russian in the latter's hometown of St. Petersburg two weeks ago. With the momentum running her way after defeating Yulia Putintseva, the 22-year-old had her eyes on the semifinal with another against Kuznetsova. The 34-year-old veteran was given a quick victory after Amanda Anisimova withdrew before their match. With time to rest, the chances for her to gain a leg up on Bencic was depended on her movement of the ball.
It proved well for the Russian on serve, but she couldn’t get a jump on Bencic, who set the bar for Kuznetsova each time. It wasn’t until the fifth where a shot for the 34-year-old was in play, forcing the Swiss to deuce. They played two breaks until the fourth seed had another serve locked down. Both continued holding serve through six games, but the Swiss game was under attack. Saving two breakpoints, Bencic got to deuce on a bad crosscourt shot from Kuznetsova.
Errors foiled her plan to lead after seven, but Bencic didn’t feel confident about the result. She in turn, called her father/coach down during the changeover, figuring out how to finish strong. Kuznetsova flew through another service game, giving the 22-year-old no chance of scoring points. After three attempts to break the fourth seed, the Russian got it done in the ninth scoring on net-front shots that assisted in playing for the set.
With a two-game winning streak, the Russian made three a charm, blasting the forehand to achieve two set points and clear the first in 44 minutes. Winners were the difference-maker for Kuznetsova who notched 21 with most coming in the last three games.
As the two moved into the second stanza, Kuznetsova revved up the offensive returns, forcing Bencic to deuce. Gaining the only AD point of the first, the Russian clinched break point and went on to consolidate a hold of serve in the second. Avoiding a double break, the 22-year-old clinched her serve despite going to deuce again. After four games, Kuznetsova had a stronger service, scoring the double break at the end of the fifth.
Bencic and her father had another animated discussion during the break as she sat three games back with her opponent closing in on an upset. The tables turned in favor of the Swiss who let the talk with her coach work into a break of the Russian and a hold to sit a game down after seven. Kuznetsova called down her coach Javier Piles to fix the problems quickly and keep her ahead in the set. An important service hold in the eighth made that possible with Bencic serving to stay alive.
A fourth double fault was committed by the fourth seed who began to complain about movement and noise in the stands. She added a fifth giving Kuznetsova match point but an error into the net killed it. With the door opened, Bencic put cross-court combinations together during rallies that got her to 4-5 with one more game to save.
Kuznetsova committed errors early but scored on a great cross-court strategy to volley the point. Another one leveled the game before an ace gave her match point. With three straight points saved, the 34-year-old won it on a long return from Bencic that put her back into the semifinals after playing 1 hour and 35 minutes.