Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova yesterday overcame a rocky start to advance to the semi-finals of the doubles at the Brisbane International with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Lucie Hradecka and Andreja Klepac in 1 hour, 20 minutes at the Queensland Tennis Centre.
The top seeds, ranked No. 4 and No. 1 in the world, saved four of seven break points and converted five of 13, winning 50 percent of their first-return points against the unseeded Czech-Slovenian duo in their first meeting on the tour after the Taiwanese-Czech pairing had to withdraw due to injury when they were scheduled to face off in the quarter-finals in Cincinnati, Ohio, last year.
In today’s semi-final, the top seeds face unseeded Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Yang Zhaoxuan of China, who battled past Darija Jurak of Croatia and Alicja Rosolska of Poland 6-2, 4-6, 11-9 in their quarter-final on Thursday.
The winners face Ashleigh Barty, the Australian world No. 1 in the singles, and Kiki Bertens in the final after the Dutch player revealed news of their semi-final opponents — Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia and Kristina Mladenovic of France — withdrawing following her second-round singles win over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit on Thursday night.
“We had a walkover, so I think we’re already in the final,” Bertens told the PerthNow Web site, before tipping her partner to bounce back from her shock singles exit to Jennifer Brady earlier on Thursday.
“It’s pretty tough. She’s [Barty’s] in a little bit of a different position of course this year, but I think in doubles she played great, so I think she’s going to be fine for the next few weeks,” Bertens said.
In the singles, Naomi Osaka battled for two hours while Petra Kvitova cruised to victory as both booked spots in the semi-finals.
Osaka’s form slipped after the first set, but the world No. 4 eventually saw off sixth seed Kiki Bertens 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the Pat Rafter Arena.
Bertens was on the attack in the second set, but lost control in the decider when she began to struggle with her first serve.
It was a more straightforward affair for fifth seed Kvitova, who downed American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2.
Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion who won her first WTA title in Brisbane in 2011, was in superb touch against Brady, who beat Maria Sharapova and Ashleigh Barty in the first two rounds, but was never in the hunt.
“I didn’t serve well at all the first game, but since then I served much, much better and that’s helped me a lot through this match today for sure,” Kvitova said. “My body’s still not falling apart yet, so that’s good as well.”
Osaka, who burst to stardom by winning consecutive Grand Slam crowns at the 2018 US Open and last year’s Australian Open, is next to play defending champion Karolina Pliskova.
Pliskova reached the semi-finals with a tough 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 victory over unseeded American Alison Riske.
The world No. 2 never had it easy against Riske, who let herself down with 11 double faults.
Kvitova is to face Madison Keys, who cruised past fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-1 to secure her berth in the final four.
AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Serena Williams, chasing her first title in three years, yesterday wore down a tenacious Laura Siegemund to set up a semi-final showdown with Amanda Anisimova at the ASB Classic.
Siegemund had upset US teen prodigy Coco Gauff to reach the final eight and kept up the pressure until the first set hit 4-4, when Williams moved up a gear to win 6-4, 6-3 in just less than 90 minutes.
The German claimed her own service break early in the second set, but her opponent broke back to level at 3-3 and then commanded the next three games to take the match.
Although still troubled by the Auckland wind, Williams said that she was determined to prove herself this week as she uses the competition to fine-tune ahead of the Australian Open.
Williams had her last tournament win at the 2017 Australian Open and before she arrived in Auckland she had not played since losing the US Open final in September last year.
However, she is now in the semi-finals of both the singles and doubles in Auckland and said that the court time was beneficial in her bid to win a 24th Grand Slam in Australia later in this month.
Anisimova, the third seed and a rising star of US tennis, won an error-strewn three-set joust with Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard to achieve her “life-long dream” of playing Williams.
“I said before the tournament in an interview that my biggest wish is to play her before she retires, so this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” Anisimova said.
She and Bouchard survived on service breaks throughout their close encounter, converting 13 of 30 break points before 18-year-old Anisimova eventually won 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki overcame defending champion and fourth seed Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-4 to also make the final four and book a semi-final clash with unheralded American Jessica Pegula.
Pegula, who is yet to face a seeded opponent in the tournament, was up 6-0, 3-2 against Alize Cornet when the Frenchwoman retired hurt with a thigh injury.
Russian fifth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova yesterday overcame sixth seed Garbine Muguruza in straight sets with a 6-4, 6-3 victory to qualify for the Shenzhen Open final.
Alexandrova needed only 76 minutes to beat the Spaniard, a two-time Grand Slam winner, to reach her second WTA singles final and she will look to win her first trophy on the tour when she takes on Kazakh seventh seed Elena Rybakina.
Muguruza was unable to cope with Alexandrova’s powerful ground strokes and the Russian earned double breaks in both sets to win, as much as Muguruza tried to delay the inevitable after losing five of the first six games in the second.
In the other semi-final, Rybakina beat the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova 6-2, 7-5 in 72 minutes to advance to her third WTA final.
Rybakina, who knocked out third seed Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, won 80 percent of her first-serve points and converted three of six break points, without dropping serve herself.
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