Kristina Mladenovic defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 7-6(4) to advance to her first Premier Mandatory final in Madrid.
It was the first time both women were meeting on clay in almost two years, with the Frenchwoman winning their only other encounter, at the US Open in 2015.
With Kuznetsova bidding for her second final of the season, after making an appearance earlier at the Paribas Open in March, it was Mladenovic, looking for her second consecutive final appearance after doing so at the Porsche Open in Stuttgart, who started liveliest. The 23-year-old broke her doubles partner’s first service game to take a 1-0 lead.
Kuznetsova would break back immediately, before saving two break points to lead 2-1. Both players were holding their serves excellently, but Mladenovic finally broke the Russia again to lead 5-4 and then, took the first set 6-4 after some quality tennis.
In the second set, it was Kuznetsova who ran to a 2-1 lead, as she looked to bounce back from a set down, after saving two break points and holding her serve.
The Russian won’t go down without a fight, as she dug deep to take a 5-4 lead, having to save three more break points. But Mladenovic kept piling on the pressure, as both women continued to display their strengths in service, holding their serves as the second set went into the tie breaker.
Mladenovic broke Kuznetsova twice to establish a 3-1 lead, but Kuznetsova rallied back, breaking the Frenchwoman, before holding to tie up the game at 3-3.
Despite a late fight back from the no.8 seeded Kuznetsova, Mladenovic, seeded 14, held on to take a 6-3 lead before serving out the match with a lovely ace in her second match point to continue her solid start to the 2017 season.
Mladenovic next faces Madrid Open defending champion, Simona Halep, who defeated Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-3 in the other semi-final match.