The Chan sisters edged a tight semi-final at the China Open on Friday to keep on track their challenge for a fourth title of the season and confirm their spot at the WTA Finals in Singapore in two weeks.
Chan Hao-ching and Chan Yung-jan edged third seeds Casey Dellacqua of Australia and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 12-10 in 1 hour, 43 minutes at the National Tennis Stadium in Beijing.
The sixth-seeded Taiwanese sisters saved six of 10 break points and converted five of 11, winning 84 of the 159 points contested to set up a final against familiar foes Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India, the top seeds.
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The semi-final victory ensured that the Chan sisters became the seventh pairing to claim their spot at the season-ending WTA Finals on Oct. 25, their first appearance as a partnership, although Chan Yung-jan has qualified before, in 2007 in Madrid with fellow Taiwanese Chuang Chia-jung.
The Taiwanese are set to become just the third pair of sisters to play at the event after Manuela and Katerina Maleeva in 1986, and Venus and Serena Williams in 2009.
“This is a great opportunity and we’re very happy to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore,” Chan Yung-jan told the WTA Web site. “We had to work extra hard to achieve this goal. This is huge for us and we are really looking forward to it — it will be my second WTA Finals and I can’t wait to go to Singapore.”
The Chan sisters were battling for their fourth title of the season as a partnership after victories in Pattaya, Cincinnati and Tokyo, while it would be Chan Hao-ching’s fifth after her victory in Nuremberg alongside Anabel Medina Garrigues.
In the final, the Taiwanese duo were leading 5-4 in the first set as of press time last night.
In the singles semi-finals, Rafael Nadal moved within reach of his first hardcourt title in almost two years by extracting a modicum of revenge on new Italian foe Fabio Fognini with a 7-5 6-3 win.
The flamboyant Fognini became the first man to beat Nadal from two sets to love down at a Grand Slam when he took out the power-hitting Spaniard in the third round of the US Open last month.
It was one of three wins the unseeded Italian had secured over the 14-times Grand Slam champion this year, but Nadal ensured there would not be a fourth.
The Spaniard came out top of an unconventional opening set which featured five breaks of serve and secured the crucial one in the sixth game of the second when Fognini struck a backhand long.
A jittery Nadal, who has slumped to eight in the world following injury and a dip in form, wasted three match points before securing victory and a spot in today’s final against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who beat David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3.
“It was a tough first set, as I expected. Tough match in general, but I think I played well,” Nadal said. “I played much closer to the baseline than the previous days. That’s very important for me, very important for my game. The position for me on the court today was more aggressive, and that’s why I was able to beat him today after a couple of defeats.”
Nadal, 29, last won a hardcourt title 21 months ago in Qatar. He has won three times this year on clay and grass and is set to book a place at the end of season ATP Finals in London next month.
In the women’s draw, Timea Bacsinszky faces Garbine Muguruza in the final today after beating Ana Ivanovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. Muguruza advanced after downing Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Lightning struck again for a dazed Kei Nishikori yesterday as the defending champion was ambushed by “shoeless” Frenchman Benoit Paire in the Japan Open semi-finals.
Paire, playing in a pair of badly torn sneakers following a forlorn dash to buy some new ones, won a nail-biter 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 to prove his first-round upset over Nishikori at the US Open six weeks ago was no fluke.
Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka awaits his close friend in today’s Tokyo final after the French Open champion produced a clinical 6-4, 7-6 win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.
Nishikori’s bid for a third Japan Open crown in four years came to a shuddering halt as Paire roared back from dropping a whirlwind first set in just 20 minutes.
His tattered yellow shoes held together with medical tape and with only one spare racquet in his kit bag, Paire leveled the match by ripping a backhand down the line, celebrating with a gunslinger’s pose as a sellout crowd of 12,000 fell silent.
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