Ekaterina Makarova managed to outgun the powerful Oceane Dodin in the semifinals of the Citi Open, triumphing in three tough sets as the Russian progressed to her first WTA final this year with an impressive performance. Her run was further spectacular when she did not have a coach accompanying her into the tournament. However, news broke out in her press conference after this match that she would start working with Nigel Sears, the former coach of the now-retired Ana Ivanovic, for the US Open Series.
Dodin steals the first set 6-3
Makarova started the match serving and that decision proved to be effective as she came into the match firing, with her serves looking really solid in the early stages. Dodin was rusty in the first couple of games, unable to find her range as she misfired more often than ever. This resulted in the Russian earning three break points in her first return game, getting the golden opportunity to jump out to an early lead. However, Makarova produced some unforced errors of her own as she allowed the Frenchwoman to escape from the brink and get on the scoreboard with a narrow service hold.
After an exchange of service holds with occasional errors made by both players, it was unexpectedly the younger player on the court who made the first breakthrough as Makarova started to be very inconsistent, gifting free points to Dodin as unforced errors started to come off her racquet more often.
From then on, it was a serve-dominated affair as the Frenchwoman remained solid on serve and did not look like she was going to lose the lead. Serving to stay in the first set, Makarova owned three game points but was unable to convert any of them as Dodin produced some impressive and powerful returns, eventually allowing her to seal the first set 6-3 after just 39 minutes of play.
Makarova fights back and takes the second set
After an exchange of love service holds to start the second set, it was Makarova who almost managed to make the first breakthrough in the third game. Failing to find her first serves initially, Dodin narrowly escaped from trouble as she found her best serves which went as fast as 115 mph, helping her to hold onto her service game. Nevertheless, the Russian finally managed to convert a break point opportunity after an impressive passing shot winner earned her the lead for the first time in the match.
Makarova almost had her second consecutive break of serve but Dodin was serving just too good on the crucial points, keeping the scores tight in the second set. The Frenchwoman served to stay in the set at 3-5 down, and Makarova had the golden opportunity to get the advantage to serve first in the deciding set if she were to break serve to win the set. With some inspired play, the Russian broke serve for the second time in the match to take the second set 6-3, sending the match into a final set.
Makarova steals the victory despite resistance from the Frenchwoman
Everything looked to be going Makarova’s way as she stormed to a comfortable service hold in the opening game of the decider before earning three break points in the second game. However, Dodin was able to come up with some great serves to shut out any chances of a break, getting herself fired up. With both players giving their all and fighting for the win, it was a tight contest from then on with Makarova occasionally screaming to herself in Russian to spur her on.
With the competitive atmosphere motivating both players, it was the more experienced player who made the first breakthrough in the final set as Dodin played a loose service game to gift the lead away, with the win slowly fading away for her. However, she was unable to hold onto the lead as the determined Dodin broke straight back with some powerful returns and huge groundstrokes as she returned on serve immediately. After an exchange of close service holds, Dodin was handed the difficult and mentally-draining task of serving to stay in the match.
She almost leveled the scores at 5-5 after earning two game points, but she was pegged back to deuce after committing a couple of unforced errors. A running forehand error from Dodin then gave Makarova her first match point, and there was more drama in the waiting as the Frenchwoman was deemed to have hit a double fault by the line judge.
However, after a Hawkeye challenge, the serve was found to be in and the players had to replay the point, giving Dodin another first serve. A strong 119 mph serve looked to have saved the match point but Makarova was able to return it, and eventually prevailing in the rally after hitting a cross court forehand winner, sealing the win after exactly two hours of play.
Match Stats: Both players were too erratic but Makarova performed better at the crucial points
Both players performed really well on their serves, combining for a total of 15 aces in the match. Makarova’s high first serve percentage of 64 went well with 73 percent of first serve points won and she performed relatively fair behind her second delivery as she won 55 percent of those points and only hit a mere two double faults in the 120-minute encounter.
Despite being able to win 74 percent of points behind her incredibly powerful first serves, Dodin was unable to make much of an impact on her inconsistent second serves as she only managed to win 45 percent of points behind them. Both Makarova and Dodin were erratic throughout the match, with the Russian hitting 31 winners to go along with a high error count of 32. Dodin did not play her best tennis as she hit the same number of winners as her opponent but committed a massive 41 unforced errors.