Daria Kasatkina reached the final of the Abu Dhabi Open after she finally won a mammoth three-setter against Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Kasatkina, the Russian seventh seed, came through her Brazilian opponent 6-3 4-6 7-6(2), to reach her second WTA final of the season, having progressed to the final showdown in Adelaide last month.
The victory is the world No. 14’s first over a top 20 opponent since Eastbourne last year, when she beat Karolina Pliskova, and she dominated the early exchanges here, breaking Haddad Maia’s serve four times.
She took the first set in ruthless fashion, finishing in 43 minutes, earning her first set off the Brazilian in their third encounter.
The Russian tired and became more passive in the second set, as Haddad Maia grew into the game, and took the match to a decider.
The final set lasted 84 minutes, with Kasatkina twice down a break in the early games. She hauled herself back to 3-3, saving another four break points to force a deciding tiebreaker.
Despite her signs of fatigue in the second, Kasatkina found a second wind in the breaker, racing into a 2-0 lead after a gruelling point, and she was able to see out her first victory in three attempts over Haddad Maia.
Kasatkina will take on Elena Rybakina in the final on Sunday, with the world No. 5 also taking three sets to overcome fellow semi-finalist Liudmila Samsonova 6-0 4-6 6-2.
It was a routine first set for Rybakina, who didn’t hit a single unforced error.
Her Russian opponent came back into the encounter in the second set after breaking Rybakina in the opening game, however, taking the match to a decider.
Rybakina eventually triumphed after one hour and 51 minutes of action, recording her first victory against Samsonova on the WTA Tour on her fifth attempt.
The Kazakhstan player has played Kasatkina on four previous occasions, winning two.
The most recent meeting, in the 2023 Canadian Open quarter-finals, was extremely close, with Rybakina prevailing 5-7 7-5 7-6(8).