Anna Completes Semifinal Line-Up
MADRID, Spain - The semifinal line-up for the Sony Ericsson Championships was finalized on Thursday evening as Anna Chakvetadze, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova joined reigning champion Justine Henin in the championship weekend for the $3-million event.
Chakvetadze arrived in Madrid short on form and has done well to reach the final four after losing her opening match to Henin. The 20-year-old Russian profited from Serena Williams retirement with a left-knee injury on Wednesday and followed this up with a tense three-set won over Jelena Jankovic. There was little to separate the two in the opening set, but it was Chakvetadze who edged it with the decisive break in the 10th game.
Despite this setback Jankovic rallied superbly to take the second set without conceding a game and when she broke serve at the start of the decider the Serb looked all set for a comfortable win. However, Chakvetadze was far from finished and the young Muscovite dug deep to reel off the next four games before holding out to secure a 64 06 63 win.
"I don't think either Jelena or I played our best tennis today," Chakvetadze said. "Perhaps as it was such an important match and we both knew only the winner would qualify we got nervous, but it's still pleasing to make the semifinals. Although I haven't yet played my best this week, to get a few wins on my debut here gives me so much confidence and I'm looking forward to playing Ana [Ivanovic] or Maria [Sharapova] in the semis."
The day's other match in the Yellow Group could not have been more contrasting as top seed Henin required just 57 minutes to dismiss Williams' replacement, Bartoli. Little more than four months ago Bartoli caused arguably the upset of the season when she defeated Henin in the Wimbledon semifinals, but the Belgian gained her revenge in spectacular fashion in Madrid with a flawless 60 60 thrashing of the Frenchwoman.
"I had a lot of determination tonight," Henin said. "The first game was pretty difficult, but then I really played unbelievable tennis and everything was working really well. It's not that easy to go play when you know you've already qualified, but I still managed to put in a great performance, which is pleasing going into the semifinals."
Over in the Red Group No.6 seed Sharapova secured her place in the semifinals of the season-ending showpiece for the fourth straight year when she came from a set down to defeat fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. The match was going with serve in the opener until the 12th game, when Kuznetsova produced some wonderful tennis to come from 40-15 down to take the next four points and with it the set.
The start of the second set witnessed some terrific shotmaking from both players, but a handful of errors from Kuznetsova at 2-2 saw Sharapova secure the vital break of serve before racing through the next three games to level the match up. In the decider the spectators inside the Recinto Ferial Casa de Campo must have been getting a sense of déjà vu, as once again the No.2 seed capitulated midway through the set to allow her young compatriot to advance courtesy of a 57 62 62 win.
"I didn't really feel I did much wrong out there," Sharapova said. "Perhaps I was a little tentative at the start and that really cost me the first set. The good thing was that I knew I still had a chance to get back in the match and at that stage there was a long way to go. I just kept a positive outlook and I improved as the match went on."
As a result of Sharapova's triumph, Ivanovic's 2-0 record in the tournament thus far now guarantees the young Serb is a place in this weekend's semifinals. However, Friday's clash between the two 20-year-olds still has huge significance as it will determine who will top the Red Group and consequently their semifinal opponent - the winner facing Chakvetadze and the loser Henin.