Natalia Vikhlyantseva played France's Alize Cornet at Moscow's Kremlin Cup and turned the three-hour match into a three-set suspense victory of 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. She most times stayed focused after she'd lost that first set, knowing how much she wanted to win, but also to be successful among her hometown crowd at The Kremlin Cup.
The second set Vikhlyantseva was more aggressive and played a lot of defense. She was trailing 3-4, and didn't want to hand the match over to an anxious Cornet so she started to cross courting and drop shotting her to see where her French opponent's weakness stood.
Before long the Russian had broken through and had won the second set 7-5. But the deciding set the ladies had leveled up many times in games but Vikhlyantseva was in the zone winning on Cornet's serve as well as her own.
The Frenchwoman was serving but at match point for the Russian, the return was hit wide, giving the set and match to a smiling and relieved Russian who knew with patience and fortitude she would produce the results to land in her second semifinal of the year.
It was obvious from the start Vikhlyantseva had a passion for the sport and by 2015 she turned pro at the Shenzhen Open receiving her wild card entry. Making it to her very first round at a WTA main draw she won over Anna-Lena Friedsam in three sets but the second round against Romania's Simona Halep she wasn't so lucky and lost in straight sets.
The Russian was determined to start making a name for herself and the following year as she won two ITF titles and reached the semifinals of the Open GDF Suez de Limoges where she was seeded no. 1 and won over France's Caroline Garcia in 3 sets.
This year she made her debut in the main draw of a grand slam as she welcomed being at the Australian Open, reaching the second round but losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Next, she played the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy beating Yaroslava Shvedova and went on to upset the no.
8 seed at that time, her comrade and friend Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. She had luck with the following round and received a walkover from Simona Halep in the quarterfinals due to an ongoing injury. The Russian lost in the semifinal to Kristina Mladenovic, but despite it all, she made it to the Top 100 WTA ranking.
Vikhlyantseva's first WTA level final was at the Ricoh Open where she won over Andrea Petkovic, Arantxa Rus and Ana Konjuh on route to the final, losing though to Estonian Anett Kontaveit. In June, Vikhlyantseva felt honored also to play in the first tournament at the Liverpool Cricket Club where her ranking was at the Top 100s and rising with a lot of her friends on the marquee.
One thing that can be said about Vikhlyantseva is that she continually has moved up in her style of playing and performance. She has about six or seven rival comrades as Daria Kasatkina, Belinda Bencic and Jelena Ostapenko and she has said about them that "I think something like six of us are in the Top 50 and more in the Top 100s.
I have known a lot of the girls since we were 10 or 12". These young women are her comrades and friends but Vikhlyantseva knows how to put on her game face and dig deep for a win that she knows she deserves. This being her home country, the Russian has her mother and friends with her at The Kremlin Cup, a tournament that might be the highlight of her tour.
This far she has taken on and Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Daria Kasatkina and Elena Vesnina, the top rankers of the WTA and has brought along her confidence and great tennis resume with her as she rolls onto the semifinals at Moscow.
She has no trouble with playing anyone top-ranked and very soon she will be involved in an upset so any player is at risk of losing to her. The Russian's next opponent Julia Goerges from Germany who will have to prepare for strong competition from Vikhlyantseva who doesn't mind hitting a lot of balls until she can call the game and match hers.