Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kim and Caro to play in final.

Four of this year's best performers on the WTA took center court Saturday, all battling for berths in the finals of the WTA Championships - Doha 2010. And with ferocious forehands and blistering backhands among their repertoires, it was one of the best days of tennis the entire season.

Kim Clijsters and Samantha Stosur, the No.3 and No.5 seeds, were the first to play. Stosur started quickly, breaking Clijsters in the second game and building a 3-0 lead; Clijsters broke back, however, and after saving set point at 4-5 always seemed to be in control, cruising through a tie-break to end the 61-minute first set and blowing through the second set in 25 minutes to improve to 5-0 in her head-to-head series against Stosur with a 7-6(3) 6-1 victory.

"Sam and I have played some tough matches in the past, but today I was able to play well on the important points. That's what helped me win the first set," Clijsters said. "In the second set I think her level dropped a little bit."

"That's what happens when you play against the best in the world. You have to play absolutely at the peak. If you drop off just that little bit, you get punished for it," Stosur said. "I had the set point and she hit a ball right on the line. You have to say too good on shots like that. She deserved to win it in the end."

Clijsters is playing a WTA tournament in the Middle East for the first time. "To play the WTA Championships here is very special. The fans are great here - my match against Azarenka went until 1am the other night and so many people stayed. I really appreciate that. I hope they keep supporting women's tennis."

The second semifinal went much like the first, with Caroline Wozniacki recovering from a close encounter in the first set then cruising through the second set to win. Wozniacki, the No.1 seed, squandered an early 4-1 lead and found herself down two set points with Vera Zvonareva serving at 5-4, 40-15; but she fought both of them off and ended up winning nine games in a row to seal victory against the No.2-seeded Russian in straight sets, 7-5 6-0.

"I was up 4-1 in the first set and suddenly she had two set points," Wozniacki said on court after the match. "First I want to thank the crowd for supporting me so much today and all week. Without you guys I wouldn't be here."

"I feel like in the beginning of the second set I lost a little bit of concentration and gave her three games right away," Zvonareva said. "Then I think it was a little bit too late. She was already dominating the second set. Against a player like Caroline you can't give her so many mistakes. I'm disappointed."

Wozniacki and Clijsters have only met once previously, with Clijsters winning in an entertaining straight-setter in the US Open final last year, 7-5 6-3.

"Right now I'm just going to enjoy this moment. I'm in the finals and it's a huge tournament," Wozniacki said. "We'll see what I come up with tomorrow."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dementieva calls quits on a Marvelous decade.

She fought alongside the biggest names on the WTA for over a decade, right until the end too. And following her last match of this week's WTA Championships - Doha 2010, Elena Dementieva called it a career.

After Anna Kournikova's stint at the top level in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dementieva was the first of the current wave of Russians to make a mark, cracking the Top 20 on September 11, 2000 after a shock run to her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open. She stayed in that elite for 524 of the next 529 weeks, including this week, and she spent an amazing 328 career weeks inside the Top 10 (peaking at No.3 for five weeks in the spring of 2009).

Dementieva seemed to get better and better with age, her most treasured title, the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, coming at age 26, and her two Top 5 finishes coming at 27 and 28 (at the end of the 2008 and 2009 seasons).

In addition to 16 WTA titles, Dementieva reached another 16 finals, including Grand Slam finals at the French Open and US Open in 2004. Players had to go to the ends of the Earth to beat her; who could forget Serena Williams' 6-7(4) 7-5 8-6 win over her in the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, where the eventual champion had to save match point in what is widely regarded as one of the best matches in recent memory. Dementieva reached the semifinals or better at Grand Slams nine times, doing it at least once at every Grand Slam.

Dementieva's success wasn't just limited to singles. She won six WTA doubles titles (including the WTA Championships in 2002 with Janette Husarova) and reached another seven finals (including two US Open finals, in 2002 with Husarova and 2005 with Flavia Pennetta). Her doubles career-high was No.5.

But after 12 years competing at the highest level, the Russian, who celebrated her 29th birthday earlier this month, decided to bow out on the WTA's biggest stage, her last match coming against Francesca Schiavone. The 30-year-old Italian would win that match in an hour and 33 minutes on center court, 6-4 6-2.

"This year in Doha was very special for me because it was my last tournament," Dementieva told the crowd. "I'd first like to thank Stacey Allaster. We're very lucky to have you as the leader of the tour. You do so much to make our tour better, trying to take women's tennis to a different level. It has been a big honor to be a part of the tour for such a long time. I'd like to thank all the people from the WTA - it was so nice to get to know all of you and work with you for so many years. I'm going to miss you so much. Thanks to all the players for the amazing experiences, all the years I spent on the court with you. And thanks to all the people around the world for supporting me, and my fan club, I could feel your support no matter where I was in the world. Thank you for your devotion.

"Most importantly, thanks to my family, especially my mom. You've been very supportive, encouraging, inspiring... you were always there for me. It was a long way and we did it together. I love you mom.

"It's so emotional. It's hard to say goodbye. I'm going to miss you so much."

"Russia is proud to have you. You've been a great inspiration and role model for kids," Vera Zvonareva said on court. "You've done so much, not just for Russian tennis but for Russian sport. The whole country is proud of you."

"We kind of grew up together. I've been playing with her since the juniors," Kim Clijsters said. "It's nice to see her look forward to something new in her life. She's been one of the most professional, nicest girls on tour.

"It will be rare to see another player like her."

Vera secures year end number 2.

The round robin portion of the WTA Championships - Doha 2010 wrapped up on Friday, with the first two matches having major implications.

First up was No.4 seed Francesca Schiavone's 6-4 6-2 win over No.7 seed Elena Dementieva, which would turn out to be Dementieva's last career match - she announced her retirement on court straight after the match.

"Everybody knew - not me," Schiavone said of Dementieva's news. "She has been a really big example for everybody. I'm friends with her. She feels it is her time to leave. It's part of life. I wish the best for her. She deserves it."

Schiavone had lost both of her previous round robin matches but ended on a winning note. She will play in the Fed Cup final next week against the USA. "I love to play for my country. I'm always ready when the captain calls me to play for my nation. Now I have some days to rest to play my last singles of the year."

Next, No.2 seed Vera Zvonareva rallied from a break down twice in the first set and twice in the second set to get revenge on No.3 seed Kim Clijsters, avenging her loss in the US Open final with a 6-4 7-5 win over the Belgian.

"I definitely produced some good tennis today," said Zvonareva, who also secured the year-end No.2 ranking with the win. "Every tournament I go to I'm trying to do my best to win it. But I have to take it one match at a time."

"Last night's match was pretty tough and I kind of felt it today," Clijsters, who beat Victoria Azarenka late Thursday night, said. "I kind of felt flat out there today. I'll have the morning off and I'll practice around 4pm. I'll be using this time to recover and be as fresh as possible for the semifinals tomorrow."

Although the final four line-up was settled on Friday, now both semifinal match-ups are set, with Clijsters facing No.5 seed Sam Stosur and Zvonareva facing No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki. Clijsters leads Stosur in their head-to-head, 4-0; Wozniacki and Zvonareva are tied in their head-to-head, 3-3.

In the third match of the day, Azarenka, the No.8 seed, rallied from an early 3-1 deficit to beat No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic, 6-4 6-0, in a match that determined who would finish No.3 and No.4 in their group. Both were 0-2 in earlier matches.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stosur beats Wozniacki, gives Vera a shot at top spot.

Her big serve and laser-like forehand in full flight, Samantha Stosur pulled off the first big upset of the season-ending WTA Championships - Doha 2010, dispatching Caroline Wozniacki, the world No.1, 6-4 6-3.

Stosur, the No.5 seed in Doha, gave Wozniacki some windows on her serve, six break points to be exact - but she saved them all and snuck out two breaks of her own against the top seed, one in the last game of the first set and another to go up 3-1 in the second. She hit a service winner on match point.

"Anytime you beat the No.1 player in the world it's a good thing," said Stosur, who hit 26 winners in the match. "It's so exciting to be here. Everything seems to be coming together. Hopefully I can keep playing like this."

Stosur scored her second career victory over a reigning No.1, her first coming earlier this year at the French Open, where she beat Serena Williams in a nail-biter in the quarters. Stosur is the only Australian in the last seven years to beat a No.1 (before her, the last one to do it was Jelena Dokic in 2003).

Stosur is now 2-0 in her group, having beaten No.4 seed Francesca Schiavone Tuesday; Wozniacki is now 1-1, having beaten No.7 seed Elena Dementieva.

In other matches on Day 2 of round robin play in Doha, No.2 seed Vera Zvonareva edged No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka, 7-6(4) 6-4, while No.3 seed Kim Clijsters beat No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic, 6-2 6-3.

Zvonareva was trailing 4-2 in the first set and 3-1 in the second set before toughing out her win over Azarenka. "I'm always leaving 100% on the court when I'm out there. I'm happy I was able to come back in those two sets; I shouldn't have started that slowly, but I was just trying to find my rhythm. I made the right adjustments and came up with great tennis in the tie-break when I needed it."

Clijsters had 10 double faults in her match but still found a way to win handily. "It wasn't my best tennis, but it was good enough. I felt I did a lot of good things, and there are a few things I need to tweak. The more matches I get, the better."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vera and Caro win openers, in fine form.

Vera Zvonareva maintained her recent mastery over Jelena Jankovic in the first match of the WTA Championships - Doha 2010 on Tuesday afternoon, beating the former No.1 handily in straight sets, 6-3 6-0.

Zvonareva, the No.2 seed at the $4.55-million season-ending event, had won her last six sets against Jankovic; that became eight in a row with Tuesday's win. Zvonareva actually won eight straight games from 4-3 in the first set; Jankovic lost that opening set on a double fault and the match on a forehand into the net.

Zvonareva had a +13 winners-to-errors differential (28-15); it was a different story for Jankovic, who had a -15 winners-to-errors differential (15-30).

"I'm excited. It's an amazing feeling to win my first match of this year's WTA Championships," Zvonareva said in her on-court interview. "All the players are very tough here and everyone who made it to the final eight deserves to be here. I was just trying to do my best on the court today - it always looks easy from the side, but the first set was really long and we had some great rallies today."

Zvonareva now leads her head-to-head series with Jankovic, 7-6.

In the other opener, Caroline Wozniacki had a just as impressive win over Elena Dementieva, crushing her 6-1 6-1.

Wozniacki, the No.1 seed at the season-ender, lost eight points in her seven service games and broke Dementieva five times en route to the 53-minute win.

"Elena's a great player so to pull this one out was nice," Wozniacki said in her on-court interview after the match. "I'm really happy to get through my first match. I love it here - it's fantastic in Doha, the crowd and the support. It was a big help for me today and I'm looking forward to my next one."

Wozniacki scored her WTA-leading 60th match victory of the season. She also has the most titles on the WTA this year, winning six: Ponte Vedra Beach, Copenhagen, Montréal, New Haven, Tokyo and Beijing. The last four of those are all Premiers; a title here would be her biggest of the year and her career.

Dementieva had pushed Wozniacki to three sets in their two other meetings this year, falling to the Dane in the semis of New Haven, 16 63 76(5), and in the final of Tokyo, 16 62 63. She fell to 3-9 lifetime against No.1s, those wins coming against Martina Hingis (2001 Moscow), Lindsay Davenport (2005 US Open) and Serena Williams earlier this season (2010 Sydney).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zvonareva becomes the fitfh Russian to crack the top 2.

Vera Zvonareva has become the fifth Russian to crack the Top 2, ascending from No.3 to No.2 after last year's WTA Championships points fell off.

Zvonareva, who had set new career-highs of No.4 and No.3 over the last few months, joins Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina amongst the Russians to break the world's Top 2.

Zvonareva maintains her focus on tennis: "I don't really think about statistics. If I do my best on the court all the time and I'm able to prepare myself to go out there and perform my best, the results and all the rankings will come. I'm just trying to concentrate on my game, trying to improve all the time. Every time I'm out there I'm challenging myself. That's the most important thing for me."

Sharapova and Safina are the only Russians ever to make it to the No.1 spot.

Following a shining performance at her home event in Moscow, Maria Kirilenko made her return to the world's Top 20, rising from No.24 to No.19. Kirilenko had already been in the Top 20 for 11 total weeks before, four in 2006 and seven more in 2008 - she now spends her 12th career week in there.

A former teen phenom's return to the main circuit at the age of 28 has finally paid off on the rankings, as Mirjana Lucic rose from No.102 to No.98, her first time in the Top 100 since July 9, 2000 - on July 10, 2000, the points from her semifinal run at Wimbledon in 1999 fell off, and she fell from No.58 to No.141.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vika Conquers in Moscow

She qualified for this coming week's season-ending WTA Championships - Doha 2010 by winning her first match of the week, but she didn't stop there. Victoria Azarenka went all the way to the title at the Kremlin Cup, capping a stellar run with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Maria Kirilenko.

Azarenka, the No.2 seed at the Premier-level tournament, downed Andrea Petkovic in a three-setter to qualify for the elite eight Doha field, then didn't drop another set all week - including beating No.6 seed Kirilenko, 6-3 6-4, winning a routine first set then rallying from 0-4 in the second set to take the title.

"We showed some excellent tennis. I hope the crowd enjoyed it," Azarenka said. "Maria played really well and had a lot of motivation for her hometown final. The crowd was obviously behind her, but that just motivated me more."

It was Azarenka's second title of the year, following another Premier-level victory in Stanford. She now has five career WTA titles and a 5-6 record in finals.

"I'm happy to win another title," Azarenka said. "It brings me extra confidence for Doha. I have a flight there tonight so I'm excited to arrive on a high."

Kirilenko had blazed through the draw at her home tournament, losing just nine games en route to the final. Her result this week, in addition to her results over the last year, mean she will return to the world's Top 20 on this week's rankings, her 12th career week among the elite (she spent four weeks in the Top 20 in 2006 and seven more there in 2008). The Russian is now 5-4 in career finals.

"I really wanted to win this tournament but Vika was better than me today," Kirilenko said afterwards. "It's nice to finish the year with a great final. It gives me a desire to work harder and get better. I felt so much support from the crowd and it helped me all week to play well. I'm happy that from tomorrow I can put my racquets and tennis clothes away for a couple of weeks!"

Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, the No.1 seeds in doubles, won their sixth title of the year together on Saturday, beating No.3 seeds Sara Errani and María José Martínez Sánchez, 6-3 2-6 10-6. It was Dulko and Pennetta's fifth Premier-level title of the season and gave them an extra push going into Doha, where they will also be the No.1 seeds in the four team competition.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kirilenko storms into final.

Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko set up an intriguing championship clash at the Kremlin Cup on Saturday, both cruising through their semifinal matches in straight sets.

Azarenka, the No.2 seed, was the first to advance, beating No.8 seed María José Martínez Sánchez, 6-3 6-3, her first win in their three career meetings. Azarenka was particularly strong on serve, losing just eight points in nine service games during the match - and holding at love four times.

"I'm pleased I could finally get some revenge against her," Azarenka said. "I was playing well today and not letting her play her game. I did some things on the court I was really proud of today too, especially the drop shots I pulled off!"

Azarenka beat Andrea Petkovic in her first match, a victory that put her in the field for the WTA Championships - Doha 2010 next week. That match went to three sets; she hasn't lost one since. "I was under pressure to qualify in that first match, but I've been so relaxed since then and have really enjoyed myself.

"This goes two ways. Some players don't need to play the week before a big tournament. For me, it's perfect to go there with matches under my belt."

Kirilenko, the No.6 seed, crushed Vera Dushevina in an all-Russian second semifinal, 6-1 6-1. She has now lost nine games in four matches this week.

"I'm very focused at this tournament and have a big desire to win here," Kirilenko said. "A lot of people came and supported me today, which gave me so much energy. When I go on court I want to show my best tennis. It's a lot of fun."

By virtue of reaching the final, Kirilenko is projected to return to the Top 20, an elite she has had nine career weeks in - next week would be her 10th. "I've been working hard with my dad for such a long time. It never pays off immediately, but this year I've played really well and I feel it's coming together at this event."

Azarenka will play her 11th career final (4-6 in her first 10) while Kirilenko will be in her ninth final (3-5). Kirilenko leads her head-to-head with Azarenka, 2-1, although Azarenka did win their most recent meeting.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maria Jose continues to find form.

María José Martínez Sánchez continued to revive the game that took her all the way to the Rome title earlier this year, easing past Dominika Cibulkova and into the semis of the $1,000,000 Kremlin Cup.

Martínez Sánchez won her third and biggest career title in Rome this year, subsequently breaking into the Top 20 for the first time. She began struggling with a right knee injury and missed two months in the summer - including having to pull out of Wimbledon - and didn't win back-to-back matches since June.

Until now. As the No.8 seed at the Kremlin Cup, a No.28-ranked Martínez Sánchez won her first two matches in three sets and on Friday afternoon rolled past her quarterfinal opponent, Cibulkova, 6-2 6-3, breaking serve three times in each set and closing the match out in an hour and 24 minutes.

Next up for Martínez Sánchez is No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka, who beat Alisa Kleybanova, 61 63. The match was hardly the rout the scoreline implied however, Kleybanova holding game point in six of the 12 games Azarenka won.

"Every game was tight," Kleybanova said. "Vika was playing great. She qualified for Doha this week and the pressure wasn't there anymore. She enjoyed the match and played freely. I did as much as I could but it wasn't easy to stay at my best the whole match. I made some mistakes on important points."

"I stuck to my game plan today. I played aggressively and didn't let her take control," Azarenka said. "I like the momentum I have right now. My next match will be a huge motivator as I have never beaten María José before."

Martínez Sánchez leads Azarenka in their head-to-head, 2-0, both of those matches coming this year, although one came via retirement.

The other semifinal will see an all-Russian duel between No.6 seed Maria Kirilenko and Vera Dushevina. Kirilenko needed just 65 minutes to beat qualifier Zarina Diyas, 6-1 6-2, while Dushevina saved four set points in the second set tie-break to beat another Russian, Anna Chakvetadze, 6-3 7-6(7).

Dushevina leads Kirilenko in their head-to-head, 3-1, although in their last meeting it was Kirilenko who prevailed in straight sets.

Azarenka and Kirilenko later took the court again for their doubles but lost to No.1 seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, 7-6(3) 6-4. They face No.3 seeds Martínez Sánchez and Sara Errani in the doubles final.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Maria Sharapova, engaged.

It was confirmed by Associated Press, with later quotes from the lucky groom-to-be, Sasha Vujacic of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Prior to that, the engagement was also confirmed by Sharapova's agent, Max Eisenbud, who is probably gnashing his teeth at his big money-maker even contemplating settling down in a cushy courtside seat at Lakers games, playing the adoring spouse and forgetting all about her mega-million-dollar tennis career (we're kidding, folks).

According to TMZ, fiancé Vujacic proposed at his home in Manhattan Beach, Calif. on Tuesday. And Sharapova had been spotted with the ring, so obviously she said yes.

TMZ calls it "ginormous" (as is her fiancé, at 6-foot-7). It would have to be. The girl has champagne tastes ;-

"We are engaged and are both really happy," Vujacic said Thursday night. "It's good and now we can focus on other things."

He proposed on the one-year anniversary of the day they met. Awwwwwwwww. "It was probably old school," Vujacic said. "I had to do it like a gentlemen."

Have to say we're pretty shocked at this one, for a few reasons starting with the fact that it's a pretty emotional decision from the typically all-business Sharapova. But he's the first guy she's really been photographed with on a regular basis; if she had any serious relationships before, she hid them pretty well. Maybe she didn't. And she certainly looks pretty happy in most of the pics that have been circulated around.

And, you know, he's really tall, so the 6-foot-2 Sharapova can wear high heels, and not have to do the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes thing.

But for a career girl, there are issues.

For one, given their respective careers, they haven't spent a whole lot of time together during this brief courtship. In the grand scheme, they barely know each other.

For another, you hope Vujacic isn't too much of a macho guy when it comes to marriage. Somehow we can't see Sharapova sitting alongside gold-digging Laker wives like Vanessa (Kobe) Bryant and Khloe Kardashian (Lamar) Odom comparing bling and Botox procedures. Not to mention wanting kids immediately.

She's just not going to be around that much. She has a job, a pretty time-consuming one.

For another, Sharapova still has a lot of tennis left to play and, after a very challenging season, has a lot of work to do to get back to where she no doubt thinks she should be. This isn't exactly going to be your Justice of the Peace kind of wedding, we don't imagine. Some girls take an entire year off to plan these affairs.

For another, she's only 23. This isn't 1950; who gets married at that age any more? You don't have to. It's okay to live in sin and really get to know the guy you're thinking about spending your life with (she could take a page out of the book of countrywoman Elena Dementieva, who has been dating hockey player Maxim Afinogenov for eons, seems happy, and doesn't seem to have set a date).

Okay, Dr. Phil moment over.

Everything about Sharapova's career so far indicates that she almost always knows exactly what she's doing, and why she's doing it. A very smart cookie, that one.

Congratulations to the happy couple. And here's to a loooooooooong, looooooooong engagement

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kimiko stuns Sam to keep the records coming.

Kimiko Date Krumm made history on Friday, becoming the first 40-something in Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history to beat a Top 10 player, stunning No.8-ranked Sam Stosur in the quarters of the HP Open, 5-7 6-3 7-6(4).

Date Krumm, seeded No.6 at the International-level event, lost the first set but began mounting her comeback in the second set. She brought up her first match point leading 5-4 third set, but would eventually close the No.1 seed and defending champion out on her second match point in the breaker.

"I played very hard," Date Krumm said. "Sam is a very good player and she is different from the others - she has a very good serve and is very fast. I had to run a lot today but I was focused and knew I had nothing to lose."

"I had several chances to win, but Kimiko played very well today," Stosur said. "She moves very fast and hits very flat. She's doing really well."

Back in May, Date Krumm became the oldest woman ever to beat a Top 10 player with a French Open win over Dinara Safina at the age of 39 years, seven months and 26 days; at 40 years and 17 days, she broke her own record.

Next up for Date Krumm is No.3 seed Shahar Peer, who earlier on needed less than an hour to cruise past No.7 seed Iveta Benesova, 6-2 6-0.

Marion Bartoli, the No.2 seed, was the first to advance to the final four, firing six aces en route to a 6-1 6-2 win over Jill Craybas. Bartoli will be in her third semifinal of the season, having gone this far at Premier-level stops in Miami and Eastbourne (losing to Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka).

Standing in between Bartoli and her first final of the year will be Tamarine Tanasugarn, who won an all-unseeded match with Chang Kai-Chen, 6-3 2-6 6-4. Tanasugarn will be playing in her second semifinal of the year (she reached the final of Pattaya City, where she was runner-up to Vera Zvonareva).

Monday, October 11, 2010

'Heartbroken' Serena out for the season.

Serena Williams is 'devastated' after admitting she is unlikely to play again this season having failed to shake off a foot injury.

Williams has not played since July when she was forced to undergo surgery after cutting her foot in a restaurant, but announced last week she intended to play in the WTA Tour event in Linz this week.

But the 13-time grand slam champion, who will be replaced as world No. 1 by Caroline Wozniacki when the latest rankings are published on Monday, was forced to backtrack on her comeback plans after straining her foot in training.

"I have been training for many weeks to get back to playing tennis as quickly possible since my foot surgery in mid-July," Williams said in a statement on her official website.

"Yesterday I learned that I had tried too hard, and did too much too soon. After practising yesterday morning I felt discomfort in my foot and tests by my doctor revealed that I had unfortunately re-strained it, as a result of over-training."

Williams will almost certainly miss the WTA year-end championships in Doha later this month, and will be unavailable for the USA's Fed Cup final clash against Italy.

"I am likely out for the year now," she admitted. "I was really looking forward to beginning my comeback in Linz, followed by the year-end championships in Doha. I feel completely heartbroken, and devastated, but I plan on coming back stronger and better."

The news comes just a week after her sister Venus confirmed she would not play again this season.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vera and Caroline set for title battle.

Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, two of the hottest players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year, moved into the final of the China Open with straight sets wins on Saturday afternoon.

Zvonareva, the No.2 seed, was the first of the pair to advance to the title match, beating No.9 seed Li Na, 63 63, her fourth win in their seven career encounters.

"Li Na is a great player and she's playing at home. I was trying to do my best on the court and not pay attention to anything else," Zvonareva said. "She was taking a lot of risks today and she had some unforced errors, so I knew I had to just hang in there and try to counterpunch, get every single ball and fight."

Wozniacki, the No.1 seed, toughed out a tight first set then rolled over No.15 seed Shahar Peer in the second semi, 75 62. Wozniacki was up 5-2 in the first set and missed six set points as Peer evened it up at 5-5, but the Dane lost one point in the last two games to take a one set lead. Peer won the first two games of the second set but Wozniacki won six in a row for the win.

"I'm really happy to be in the finals. I've never been in the final in singles here before," said Wozniacki, a doubles champion here in Beijing two years ago with Anabel Medina Garrigues. "Vera's a good player, I'm a good player. It's going to be a difficult match, and we'll see what happens."

Zvonareva leads Wozniacki in their head-to-head, 3-2. In their last meeting, Zvonareva beat Wozniacki in the semifinals of the US Open last month, 64 63.

"It's always a challenge to play Caroline, but I like challenges," Zvonareva said. "US Open was in the past. Tomorrow is going to be a new day."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Serena Williams will return to tennis next week.

Serena Williams will return to the women’s tennis tour next week in Linz, Austria, after recovering from a foot injury that kept her out since July.

Williams, 29, said in a statement on the tournamant’s website today that she had “finally got the green light” after her doctor advised her against playing in Tokyo and Beijing because her fitness wasn’t 100 percent.

When she takes to the courts next week, Williams will be ranked the No. 2 player in the world behind Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, who earlier ensured she’ll take over as No. 1 by advancing to the quarterfinals at the China Open.

Williams, who has held the top spot for a total of 123 weeks during her career, hasn’t played since winning her 13th Grand Slam singles championship at Wimbledon. The American had foot surgery the same month after walking through glass at a restaurant in Munich, she told USA Today in September.

Williams is also expected to play in the Kremlin Cup the week after, held in Moscow. If she were to win both tournaments, depending on Caroline Wozniacki's China result she would again rise to top of women's tennis.