Defending champ Kvitova makes final

CZECH MATE::Klara Zakopalova was full of praise for compatriot and Fed Cup teammate Petra Kvitova, saying she was capable of beating anyone

AFP and AP, NEW HAVEN, Connecticut

Sun, Aug 25, 2013 - Page 19

Reigning champion Petra Kvitova breezed into her second straight New Haven WTA final on Friday, where she was due to face in-form Romanian Simona Halep.

Kvitova did not put a foot wrong in a 6-0, 6-1 semi-final victory over her Czech Fed Cup teammate Klara Zakopalova.

Halep defeated fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki — a former world No. 1 and four-time winner of this event — 6-2, 7-5.

Halep broke Wozniacki three times in each set to claim the victory in one hour and 20 minutes.

Kvitova, seeded third, needed just 50 minutes to get past unseeded Zakopalova in the semi-finals of this US Open tuneup on the hardcourts at Yale University.

“I think the beginning of the match was pretty close,” Kvitova said. “Klara had chances to win the first game and the next game when she was serving. I think that was the turning point.”

“I was saying to myself, I need to stay focused in the first set and play really well because I know she can come back anytime and I need to be ready for it,” said Kvitova, who had been taken to three sets in her previous three matches.

“Well, she just played fantastic tennis today without any mistakes,” said Zakopalova, ranked 33rd in the world. “I think everything was working for her, so I have to just congratulate her, wish her good luck because she was the better player today, for sure. She can beat anybody with this game.”

Kvitova claimed the 11th title of her career in Dubai in February.

Halep is enjoying a breakout season that has included her first three WTA titles.

The 21-year-old Romanian, who expects her world ranking to rise to No. 21 tomorrow, is now 28-5 in her last 33 matches (30-5 counting qualifying matches). It is a string that began in Rome in May when she was ranked 64th in the world and made the semi-finals.

“I have big confidence in me now,” she said.

Halep got the first of her six services breaks in the first game of the match, and appeared to be in complete control when she broke the Danish star again to open the second set.

However, Wozniacki kept fighting. She broke back, and did it again after dropping her serve to Halep in the set’s fifth game.

Halep kept the pressure on and broke again to take a 6-5 lead, using a bit of luck. The Romanian mishit a return that floated high and into the middle of the court, but Wozniacki hit what appeared to be an easy overhead smash well wide.

“I don’t know how I missed that by like a mile,” she said. “It was a pretty crucial point as well, so pretty disappointing there.”

Wozniacki saved two match points to get to deuce on Halep’s final serve, but the Romanian put a backhand cross court for a winner to take the match.

The loss was just the second for Wozniacki in 25 career matches in New Haven, where she is a four-time champion. Her only other defeat came a year ago when she was forced to retire from the semi-finals because of a knee injury.

“It’s a very like empty feeling in a way, because I’ve been so used to winning here and I love winning,” she said.

Halep won her three titles in Europe, two on clay and another on grass. Her best previous showing in the US Open series was in Cincinnati, where she was eliminated in the quarter-finals last week.

“But now I’m playing really good on hard [courts], too,” she said. “So I don’t know which one is my favorite. I like all the surfaces now.”

WINSTON-SALEM OPEN

AFP, WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina

Gael Monfils shrugged off pain in his left hip to reach his second ATP final of the season on Friday at the Winston-Salem Open.

The French 15th seed defeated 10th-seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 to advance to the title match of this US Open tuneup, where he was due to face ninth-seeded Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 winner over sixth-seeded American Sam Querrey.

The win was the first for the 32-year-old Austrian over Querrey after two defeats.

Melzer has lost to Monfils in four previous matches, but Monfils said the injuries that have hampered him in recent weeks made him the underdog.

“I still think I’m the outsider. I am the outsider, and I like it,” Monfils said. “I’m happy that hopefully I can keep going. I’m trying get back into shape. I’ve worked hard this week and it’s paying off well.”

Monfils called for the trainer after just 11 minutes on court, having surrendered two breaks of serve to trail Dolgopolov 0-3.

After a consultation and on-court treatment he got on with the job of mounting a comeback.

“I had thigh muscle pain which was going to my hip. The trainer told me I was just tight,” Monfils said. “When we resumed I told myself to focus on the match, not the pain.”

“OK, I have some pain, but it’s no reason not to play tough,” he said. “I just needed to focus less on my body.”

“I tried to keep it simple and it worked,” Monfils said. “I needed to get my rhythm back.”

Monfils kept the pressure on Dolgopolov, who faced 13 break points in the contest.

In the first set, the Ukrainian double-faulted to lose the sixth game for 4-2 and then found himself at 5-5 after saving one break point, but then netting a backhand on another.

In the tiebreaker, Monfils saved three set points and won the opener on his own second chance.

Monfils, competing on hard courts for the first time this month after missing the Masters events in Montreal and Cincinnati with an ankle injury, took control in the second set.

He broke Dolgopolov for a 2-1 lead on another double-fault from the Ukrainian.

Monfils broke again in the final game of the match, converting his second match point to seal the win in 97 minutes.

The victory was Monfils’ second over Dolgopolov this year. He also won their Australian Open first-round meeting.

Melzer won through to his second final of the year after Zagreb in February.

“Any time you get a win before the US Open, you take it,” Melzer said. “It was a tough match and especially for me near the end of the second set when Sam lifted his game, but I won in the end and I’m very happy to be in the final.”