Black, Huber Win Thriller To Make Final
MADRID, Spain - The Top 4 doubles teams of 2007 went head-to-head at the Sony Ericsson Championships on Saturday in two vastly contrasting semifinals. The first clash saw the No.2 seeds, Ai Sugiyama and Katarina Srebotnik, ease past Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, before being joined in the final of the $3-million event by the No.1, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, conquerors of Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs on a match tie-break.
Chan and Chuang have enjoyed a wonderful breakthrough year on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2007 - winning three titles and finishing runners-up at both the Australian and US Opens - and made a confident start to the final four match-up with a love service game. However, Srebotnik and Sugiyama also settled quickly and two games later secured the first service break of the match to establish an early 3-1 advantage.
Although Srebotnik and Sugiyama, this week's No.2 seeds, had played a mere 11 tournaments in tandem prior to this week they have already achieved tremendous success - highlighted by runners-up finishes at Wimbledon and Roland Garros and a tournament victory in Toronto - and illustrated just why as they captured the first set with consummate ease. In the second set the spectators on Pista Central must have been getting a sense of déjà vu, as once more the Slovene-Japanese duo secured service breaks in the third seventh games to run out impressive 62 62 winners.
"We came into the match in a positive mood and I think that helped us to perform well," Srebotnik said. "I think the key was how we played on the important points, as at these moments we came up with big shots and made the right decisions, which is really pleasing. Hopefully we can do the same in the final because this will for sure be a tough match."
The other semifinal was a far closer affair and there was virtually nothing to separate the two teams for the one hour, 55 minutes they were on court. The opening set was a seesaw affair, with double faults and service breaks aplenty and fittingly for such a close set it was decided on a tie-break, with Black and Huber holding their nerve to strike the psychologically vital first blow.
Peschke and Stubbs have been in scintillating form during the European indoor season, capturing titles in Stuttgart and Zürich and they demonstrated why their attacking game has flourished in recent weeks by recovering from an early 2-0 deficit in the second to square the contest up at one set apiece. The ensuing match tie-break saw Black and Huber race to an early advantage and this was a lead they would not relinquish, as they progressed to their 12th final of 2007 courtesy of a thrilling 76(3) 46 106 victory.