x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Svetlana Kuznetsova holds off Agnieszka Radwanska

Russian sets her sights on climbing higher in the world rankings.

DUBAI // Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships for the fifth time in nine appearances last night after holding off Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 at the Aviation Club.

The Russian former world No 2, had slipped down the rankings in recent months, but yesterday's triumph ensures she will re-enter the top 20 when the WTA publish their updated list on Monday, not that she will take much notice, proclaiming: "It is nothing for me to be in the top 20.

"I want to be much, much higher."

Despite leading 5-3 in the first set, Kuznetsova was pushed to a tie-break by 21-year-old Radwanska, who showed an impressive repertoire of slice and spin.

Likewise, in the second, after racing to a 4-1 lead, she was made to battle to close out the match, which lasted exactly two hours.

"It was hard, but it is always hard against Agnieszka," Kuznetsova, 25, said.

"She changes the pace; she doesn't overpower you, but maintains it and runs with it a little. She is an opponent that if you play well, you have every chance of beating her.

"She never gives up. You always have to fight for every ball. It happened to me in San Diego last year - I will never forget it. With her, it is almost like we play a game of Catch Me If You Can."

Kuznetsova admitted she arrived in the UAE earlier this week suffering from a fever "similar to that of Maria [Sharapova]".

Compatriot Sharapova pulled out last week after failing to shake off a bug.

"I am doing better day by day," Kuznetsova said.

"I was very sick at the start of the week but now I am better. It could have gone either way really - recover or get worse - so I did less tennis and less work and thankfully I have improved.

The 2009 French Open champion said that while the amount of matches she has competed in this season are not that many, the constant change in temperatures - Australian summer to Russian winter overnight courtesy of a first class flight - provide a mental challenge.

Despite Kuznetsova's track record at the Aviation Club, she refused to look too far ahead. She has reached the final twice, losing on both occasions - first in 2004 to Justine Henin and four-years later to Elena Dementieva, - but said last night she won't yet be thinking about a possible hat-trick of final appearances.

"When you start thinking about winning, you are already losing," she said.

Flavia Penetta and Alisa Kleybanova took part in last night's late quarter-final.