Samantha Stosur appeared to have her best chance to win a first title since the US Open after reaching the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open on Wednesday.
It is five months since the Australian captured the first Grand Slam title of her career in New York, but during her 6-1, 6-7 (7/5), 6-1 win over Lucie Safarova, she showed glimpses of a return to title-winning form.
Safarova, who beat former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Doha last week, found more chances to flay her left-handed forehand cross court into Stosur’s backhand in the second set.
However, in the third, Stosur was able to reimpose her serve, one of the finest in the women’s game, and with some help of some forceful follow-ups, restored the earlier patterns of the match.
“I don’t think I did much wrong in the second set and thought I played a good match,” Stosur said. “I held serve and in the third set, I took my opportunities to break.”
Stosur’s cause may also have been significantly aided by top-seeded Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka pulling out shortly before her first round match with an ankle injury. That follows the pre-tournament absence of the second-seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Both players had been placed in Stosur’s half.
With Li Na, the French Open champion from China, missing with a bad back, and Vera Zvonareva, the former Wimbledon finalist from Russia, absent with a hip problem, the draw has opened up for her invitingly.
Stosur next plays Jelena Jankovic, the former world No. 1 from Serbia, who reached the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Flavia Pennetta, last year’s conqueror of Azarenka.
Still playing with a tear in her bandaged left thigh, Jankovic recovered well from an early 1-3 deficit, adopting a more positive approach and finding a good combination of aggression with consistency.
Later, the defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki, also reached the quarter-finals after outplaying Simona Halep, a Romanian qualifier, 6-2, 6-3.
It earned the Dane a meeting with another former world No. 1, Ana Ivanovic. The Serb beat Maria Kirilenko, a former top 20 Russian, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) despite losing a three-point lead and trailing 3-4 in the tie-break.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the fifth seeded Pole who overcame the Israeli Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-4 on a strictly monitored outside court, had a different interpretation of the casualty list that has left her one of the three most likely players to win the title.
“It’s also an explanation that sometimes in the off season the girls are doing too much,” she said. “Then suddenly you have some tough match in the beginning of the year and then it’s too much for the body.”
Radwanska now plays Sabine Lisicki, the Wimbledon semi-finalist from Germany.
Meanwhile Peer, who in 2010 became the first female Israeli athlete to compete in the United Arab Emirates, departed celebrating another diplomatic success for her and the ground-breaking Dubai Open.
Although she still had to live with tight security in separate facilities from all the other players, it was regarded appropriate to allow the Israeli sightseeing for the first time in her three visits to Dubai. The other quarter-final is between Daniela Hantuchova, the former world No. 5 from Slovakia, who made the first successful title defense of her career in Pattaya the week before last, and Julia Goerges, the world No. 21 from Germany.