ZHUHAI, China – Karolina Muchova won through to the semifinals of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Sofia Kenin in two hours 12 minutes.
Both players had already dispatched Alison Riske in the round-robin stage – Muchova 24 hours earlier in a three-set success – and were involved in what was a virtual shootout to claim success in the Camellia Group and with it a place in the final four.
In the pair’s first meeting, Muchova played a virtually flawless opening set, in which she hit 11 winners and made just two unforced errors. The second proved more of a slog for the WTA World No.26, who finally seemed to begin to feel the effect of a busy schedule, which saw her play the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Saturday.
Kenin was swift to take advantage, breaking twice to level the match but Muchova somehow found the resources to pinch a decider.
The American No.2 did well to push her opponent so close in the first set, as she was left clinging on as the opening eight games were all shared on serve.
Muchova enjoyed a great deal of success coming to the net, while her serve was impeccable. She went on a 16-point winning streak on her own delivery, which was only ended by a double fault in the ninth game. Nevertheless, she held to force the WTA World No.12 to serve to stay in the set.
While the Czech had pushed her opponent on several occasions to 30-30, she had been unable to fashion a break point until the 10th game, crushing a winner down the line to end that frustrating statistic. Kenin, who did not have to face such a scenario against Riske, was unable to resist the pressure, netting to see the set she had fought so hard for slip away.
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The work that Kenin had done in the opener, however, would pay dividends in the second. Muchova, who had spent two hours on court on Thursday, began to make the type of loose errors that had been entirely absent from her play in the opener.
The door started to open regularly for the 20-year-old on her opponent’s serve, and though the Wimbledon quarterfinalist twice resisted in tight games, the persistence of Kenin was rewarded in the fifth game as she finally earned a break.
Although there was a sense the Seoul champion was giving everything just to hang on, particularly after a period of treatment, she drew level as Kenin’s concentration briefly lapsed. But the American hit back immediately to love before serving out to level the match.
At that juncture, Muchova seemed on her last legs, yet her determination to win, which she showed in twice coming back from a break down against Riske in the final set, was again amply evident. Crucially, she held serve after a battle in the opening game then profited as Kenin played loosely to be broken.
The 23-year-old then reprised the serving she had shown in the opening set to storm into a 5-2 advantage, profiting from two love games.
When asked to serve for the match, her delivery was as reliable as ever. Kenin hinted at a recovery as she took the opening point, yet Muchova went through the rest of the game untouched, sealing a victory that paid testimony to her resilience with an ace out wide.