Wozniacki and Kvitova reach New Haven semis

AFP and AP, NEW HAVEN, Connecticut

Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - Page 19

Former winner Caroline Wozniacki and reigning champ Petra Kvitova beat a pair of WTA young guns on Thursday to reach the semis of the New Haven Open, the final tune-up for the US Open.

Four-time winner Wozniacki defeated US wild-card Sloane Stephens 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 in a quarter-final contest at the Yale University hardcourt facility. Former world No. 1 Wozniacki, who is seeded fourth this week, captured the New Haven event four years in a row from 2008 to 2011.

Third-seeded Czech Kvitova fought back from a first-set stumble to outlast Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The former Wimbledon champion Kvitova topped Russian Maria Kirilenko in last year’s New Haven final.

Kvitova lost six more points than she won in her rain-delayed match against Pavlyuchenkova, but came back from 40-15 down in the last game to break her opponent’s serve and post the win.

“It’s important to have matches like these where you have to fight until the end where you’re not necessarily playing your best. That’s part of tennis,” Kvitova said. “Of course, I prefer shorter, two-set matches, but I won the last point and that’s the important thing.”

Kvitova is now two wins away from defending a title for the first time.

“I think coming back to a place where you played very well the last year, you have a lot of emotions and you know the pressure is there as defending champion, and you’re defending a lot of points,” Kvitova said. “But on the other hand, you know that you can play well here.”

In other matches, surging Romanian Simona Halep beat Russian Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1, 7-6 (8/6), while Czech Klara Zakopalova earned 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 triumph over 2009 New Haven runner-up Elena Vesnina.

Halep jumped out early, taking the first set 6-1 while breaking Makarova’s serve four times.

A rain delay came with the players tied at 1-1 in the second, and when play resumed Makarova won the next two games.

“I was a little bit nervous after [the rain],” Halep said. “I played really slow after, but I came back from 4-2 again and I did well.”

The Romanian broke serve in the eighth game, and won the tiebreaker 8-6.

Halep said she likes where her game is heading into next week’s US Open.

“I’m a bit tired right now, but I want to play tomorrow, to try my best. After that I will see what will happen,” she said.

The 21-year-old Halep, who is seeking her fourth title in seven tournaments, was due to take on Wozniacki in the semis, while Zakopalova was to go up against Kvitova in an all-Czech semi.

The players got a little excitement before play began on Thursday.

A fire alarm, caused by smoke from someone cooking in the players’ lounge, forced the evacuation of the Connecticut Tennis Center for about 15 minutes.