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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Garbine Muguruza overcomes late nights and spots of rain to reach WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semi-finals

World No 3 happy with the state of her game after defeating Frenchwoman Garcia for a second straight tournament.

Garbine Muguruza is two wins away from her first title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Mahmoud Khaled / EPA
Garbine Muguruza is two wins away from her first title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Mahmoud Khaled / EPA

After the drama of the previous night, Garbine Muguruza could not quite believe her luck.

The world No 3, the highest-ranked combatant at this week’s WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, was the last woman standing in a round of 16 that straddled Wednesday and Thursday at the Aviation Club. Matches took longer than expected, creating a logjam on Centre Court. Out in the final pairing, Muguruza did not conclude her straight-sets victory against American wildcard Catherine Bellis until close to 2.00am.

Hence the late, late finish meant a relatively quick turnaround. Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion and thus one of the main draws in Dubai, had to return early Thursday night for her quarter-final with Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.

On a cursory level at least, there seemed little residual fatigue, especially when Muguruza took the first set 7-5. After a short break, Garcia won the opening game of the next. Then the rain came. A few drops here and there, granted, but still enough to halt play for a full five minutes. Even the mops came out.

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Sitting under a hastily unravelled umbrella, Muguruza was probably wondering whom she had upset.

“The last thing that could happen to me because it never rains in the desert,” the Spaniard said afterwards with a smile. “I saw a couple of drops. I'm like, ‘OK, listen, if I could play yesterday at 2am, I can play with few drops’.”

And play she did. Muguruza held well in the next game, before racing to a 4-1 lead. With the rain gone and her slick on court, she won 12 consecutive points. Eventually, she survived a break back to take the set 6-2. A few days after finishing runner-up at the Qatar Open, Muguruza rolls onto a second Dubai semi-final on Friday.

"I think it was a very good match, especially the first set," said the two-time grand slam champion, who had defeated world No 7 Garcia en route to Sunday's showpiece in Qatar. "I felt much better this match than the match we played in Doha. It's always difficult because we played almost in the same week twice. When you play a top-10 player, and you beat them a second time in a row, it gives you a good sign that what I'm doing is right."

Given what had gone on in the early hours of Thursday, she was glad simply to be able to do anything.

“You know, I was a little bit upset because, you can play late, but it was very late,” Muguruza said. “I ended up sleeping at 4am. There's nothing, not even time to eat.

“Today I somehow fought with a little bit of the tiredness from yesterday. But that's it. One day is going to go my way, one day is going to go against me.”

Not much has gone against her this past week. Of course, there was narrowly missing out on the trophy in Doha, but Muguruza has evidently found form. She has transitioned well to Dubai, too.

“It is very different,” the former world No 1 said. “Doha is more windy and it's more dry. Here, it's very specific, but the surface is a little bit different. We feel it. Especially me, that I went the next day and I could practice a little bit, then right away play. But it's a good problem to have.”

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