Serena Williams of the US during her WTA tennis championships match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, yesterday.
ISTANBUL, Turkey: Defending champion Serena Williams made sure of a place in the semi-finals of the WTA Championships with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champion, yesterday.
The American was relentlessly focussed against her gifted Czech opponent, who had led 4-1 in the final set when the two last met, eight months ago in a magnificent match in Doha, but Williams was never headed this time.
Then Kvitova’s angular serving and flat hitting had done constant damage.
Now she was reduced to striking some good blows as an entertaining digression to the flow of heavy winners coming in the other direction.
It lasted only 72 minutes and it was Williams’s third win in her group, leaving her with a day’s rest before she seeks a place in the final by taking on the runner-up in the other group.
That could be Jelena Jankovic, Li Na, or Victoria Azarenka.
Na took a significant step toward reaching the semi-finals of the Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul for the first time with a rollercoaster victory over Jankovic yesterday.
In a contest where both players enjoyed periods in the ascendancy, it was Li that eventually prevailed, wrapping up a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win after two hours and 11 minutes. “Today wasn’t only about technique,” Li said in her on-court interview.
“I think both of us were playing unbelievable today, so it was more mental, and I was really happy I could play well again at the end of the match.”
In a battle of aggressor against counterpuncher, at first Jankovic looked in real danger of being blown away amidst of whirlwind if Li winners.
Despite withstanding this early storm to draw level at 3-3, Li was soon back on the front foot, deservedly taking the opening set after another break in the eighth game.
Seven weeks ago, Li required just 57 minutes to see off Jankovic in the fourth round of the US Open, and when she carved out two more break points in the first game of the second set another one-sided contest looked in the cards.
However, Jankovic showed admirable resolve to fend off the danger before wrestling back the initiative with some typically stubborn baseline defense.
Marrying superhuman court coverage with some precise passing shots, the Serb dominated the rest of the set, winning five consecutive points - the last a fine forehand passing shot after yet another energy-sapping rally - to claim the pivotal break at 4-3.
Just as Jankovic looked to be running away with it, Li came back once more to capture the first break of the decider. While this advantage proved a fleeting one, the No.4 seed was not to be denied, striking again to go 5-3 up thanks to a vicious crosscourt backhand winner, before serving it out moments later.
In her final round robin match, Li will face Azarenka, knowing that victory will assure her of top spot in the White Group.
Meanwhile, Angelique Kerber breathed new life into her campaign with an impressive victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.
Kerber hit 31 winners and just 11 unforced errors as she brushed aside No.3 seed Radwanska, 62 62, in just 58 minutes.
“I’m feeling very good, I was playing very well from the first point,” Kerber said.