Garbiñe Muguruza emerged undefeated from her Middle East series with Aryna Sabalenka, overcoming the No. 3 seed, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships semifinals.

The former world No. 1 trailed Sabalenka by a set and a break only to win the final five games of the final set to advance after one hour and 44 minutes on Center Court.

The rivals were facing off for the second time in two weeks, as Muguruza rallied from a break down in the final set to defeat defending champion Sabalenka en route to the Qatar Total Open final.

"She has a strong game, and I was just excited to play for the semifinals," Muguruza said in her post-match press conference. "I wasn't thinking too much about our last match beyond just knowing how to play. It's another match, and everyone can win at the end of the day. Nobody cares who won last week."

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Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

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Eager to avenge the loss, Sabalenka withstood an early assault on serve and saved two break points to quickly move ahead 5-2, clinching the opening set on her second opportunity.

"I felt like she came out more aggressive than in our last match. She wanted to play faster, serve big, and I kind of struggled to find my shots, my game," Muguruza said. "In the first set, I was rushing too much."

The Belarusian carried that momentum into the second set by opening with another break before Muguruza, who has already reached two WTA finals in 2021, battled back to win four games in a row and level the contest as a Sabalenka forehand flew long.

"I tried to be more aggressive, as well, because when you have someone in front of you that is trying to win the point in a couple of shots, I have to be faster and stronger. I tried to be as dominant, and then everything was more equal, and I felt more in every points."

Opening the decider with a break of her own, the Spaniard endured a reversal from the second set as it was Sabalenka who reclaimed the momentum and brought the match back on serve.

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

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"I just didn't cope with the pressure," a despondent Sabalenka said after the match. "For now, I'm really emotional, so it's tough to say anything positive. I'd like to just take the first set, think about the negative things and try to improve them because this is the second time in two weeks I've lost to the same opponent. I feel like I didn't learn the lessons and made the same mistakes, so I need to improve the weaknesses in my game."

Muguruza soon steadied and triumphed through a thrilling penultimate game to book her spot in the semifinals with a love service hold.

"I knew it could go fast in either direction because of the way we both serve and how aggressively we play," Muguruza said. "I felt like there was a key game in each of the sets that made a difference, so I was just happy to stay strong, even when she came back and broke me. I thought, 'She plays great, and it can happen,' so I wanted to stay close in the score, stay calm, and take my opportunities."

While she struck three fewer winners than her hyper-aggressive opponent (23 to 26), the No. 9 seed ended the match with 14 fewer errors (20 to 34) to establish a +3 differential and converted five of 11 break point opportunities.

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

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Standing between Muguruza and a third WTA final in four weeks will be No. 10 seed Elise Mertens, who saved three match points to end Jessica Pegula’s stunning run of form, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.

"I always felt that though I could win against any player, I could lose to them, as well," Muguruza said. "This is tennis, and I always felt like I had good tennis in my hands, like I was talented and worked hard, and that I have what it takes to beat everyone, but so does everyone else! It's very equal, and I don't feel like there is one person who is so dominant. Everyone is dangerous."

A former Australian Open semifinalist, Mertens fell behind by a set and 5-2 to Pegula, who is enjoying a career-best season after reaching a maiden major quarterfinal in Melbourne and scoring back-to-back wins over Karolina Pliskova in Doha and Dubai.

On Pegula’s third match point, the sideline graphics errantly came alight as Mertens put in a second serve, forcing a let and for the point to be replayed. With a free first serve, the Belgian saved match point and reeled off the final 10 games of the clash.

Muguruza last played Mertens in the first round the 2016 US Open, where she rallied from a set down to drop a second set bagel and survive in three sets.

"At that time, I didn't know much about her, but now, I definitely know more," Muguruza said. "I've seen her play, and she's a tough player who has already won some tournaments. I'm just looking forward to the semifinals because I love this tournament. I've been coming here for many years, and if she's in the semifinals, it means she's a dangerous opponent!"

Earlier in the day, former WTA doubles No. 1 Barbora Krejcikova defeated Russian wildcard Anastasia Potapova, 6-0, 6-2, and awaits Jil Teichmann, who avenged two prior defeats to American teenager Coco Gauff, 6-3, 6-3.

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Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai

Muguruza repeats in Sabalenka thriller, Mertens awaits in Dubai