Kasatkina stands in Svitolina's back-to-back Dubai title bid

Daria Kasatkina of Russia in action against Garbine Muguruza of Spain. — Reuters

DUBAI —Elina Svitolina beat Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to set up a Dubai Championships title defence against Daria Kasatkina.

Russia's unseeded Kasatkina upset Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 3-6, 7-6 (13/11), 6-1, saving three match points in her semi-final which lasted two and a half hours.

Svitolina is hoping to become just the third woman after Justine Henin and Venus Williams to win back-to-back Dubai titles.

The top-seeded Ukrainian dominated double Grand Slam winner Kerber in 85 minutes with five breaks of serve against the German, a former world number one.

"I'm very pleased to be in the final again," said Svitolina after her fifth consecutive victory over Kerber.

"It was a tough battle. I played well in the tight moments, I tried to focus only on what I had to do on court and let nothing else into my mind.

"It should be a good final, Daria is playing well, and she's won some tough matches."

Kerber stalled again at the semi-final level where she exited last year.

"It was not my best day, I was trying to find my rhythm. But especially in my serve, I couldn't find it," the 30-year-old German said.

After dropping the opening set and falling a break behind in the second, the 20-year-old Kasatkina turned the tables on Muguruza.

Kasatkina saved nine of 12 break points and broke Muguruza five times.

In the second set, the unseeded Kasatkina saved three match points before coming good on her fourth set point.

In the decider, Kasatkina, ranked 24 in the world, rode her rising momentum as the fight drained out of Muguruza.

"I was just trying to fight for every ball because Garbine, she's playing unbelievable," Kasatkina said.

"She's a very tough opponent. She's hitting so hard, playing so fast. I was just trying to do whatever I could.

"Before the match I was really, really tired. When you're going on court, the adrenaline is coming."

"You start to run, blood start to run into your body, that's it. You're just focused on every ball. The tired is somewhere, going somewhere."

Muguruza was aiming to become only the fifth player to reach both Doha and Dubai finals in the same season having lost to Petra Kvitova in Qatar last weekend.

"My game was fine. I feel I really struggled physically because I've been playing so many matches in a row. Today was very physical," Muguruza said. — AFP