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."