Doubles Final Locked In
DOHA, Qatar - In a mild upset, on paper at least, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs beat No.2 seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama in the first doubles semifinal at the Sony Ericsson Championships, 63 26 10-4. Their opponents in Sunday's final will be Cara Black and Liezel Huber, after the world No.1s and top seeds cast aside Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual with consummate ease, 61 63.
Having waited all week for their moment on court, both teams started edgily in the first match, trading breaks in the opening two games. But it was Peschke and Stubbs - who won the Tier I Qatar Total Open on this very stadium in February - who settled first, breaking Japanese veteran Sugiyama in the third game and holding onto the advantage to ride out the set.
The second set began the same way, the two teams exchanging breaks, but it was 2007 runners-up Srebotnik and Sugiyama's capture of the Stubbs serve marked the beginning of a four-game streak that put them back in contention at 4-1. Two games later the second seeds leveled the match when the Czech Republic's Peschke double faulted on set point.
In the ensuing match tie-break Peschke and Stubbs stole back the momentum by winning the first seven points; by the time Slovenia's Srebotnik and Sugiyama hit the scoreboard it was too little, too late.
"The competition in women's doubles at the moment is just unbelievable," said Stubbs. "There could have been six or seven or eight teams that made the Championships this year. We feel really fortunate to be here."
Sunday's match will, in fact, be a replay of the Qatar Total Open final from earlier this year, as the team that Peschke and Stubbs beat to win that title was none other than Black and Huber. But the top seeds are in ominous form; not only did they qualify for the Sony Ericsson Championships with more than twice as many Race points as any other team, they made very light work of their Spanish opponents - who came in second on the standings - on Saturday afternoon.
Although Medina Garrigues and Ruano Pascual who won the title in 2003 with Paola Suárez - broke back twice in the second set, they had missed their chance against the super-focused Black and Huber.
"We won it last year, so I think that takes the pressure off us a little bit," said Black. "With the year we've had, I think we're just here celebrating this week. We're ready toplay, we're going to go out there and give it 100 percent and whatever happens, happens."
Three of the four players in the final are former champions at this event; Zimbabwean Black and US citizen Huber won last year, while Stubbs won in 2001 with Lisa Raymond. The Australian veteran is, in fact, making her 13th appearance at the year-end Championships - the most of any active player, behind only Martina Navratilova, with 16, and Pam Shriver, with 14. Stubbs and Peschke will be targeting their fifth title together; their combined individual tallies add up to more than 70.