Vera Zvonareva, who played quite well in Dubai today in her first set against 8th seed Victoria Azarenka, received almost nothing in return for her effort. No matter what she did, Azarenka went her one better. Even when Zvonareva tried to crack her racquet on the court, she was unsuccessful, and had to crack it a second time to get it to break. She told her coach, "I see empty spaces all over the court, and I hit the ball to them, and she gets all the balls. I feel like my feet are stuck."
Azarenka, who was playing almost error-free tennis, did have a bit of a let-down in the second set, which, for a while, didn't seem to matter, because it looked as though Zvonareva were going to self-destruct. But Zvonareva pulled herself together and made the set more competitive. The 4th seed just wasn't good enough, however, to get past Azarenka, who won the quarterfinal match 6-1, 6-3.
I was able to see the last half of the third set between Agnieszka Radwanska and Regina Kulikova, and I wish I had seen the whole thing. Radwanska, seeded 7th, apparently had all she could handle in Kulikova, the Russian player who defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round. I was impressed with what little I saw of Kulikova, and I was really impressed with Radwanska, who--at least in the part of the match I saw--was serving better than usual. Kulikova grew tired in the third set, and--after being broken--had a couple of chances to break back, but could not do so. When she threw a backhand volley into the net at 3-5, it seemed obvious that her chances were gone. Radwanska won, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Li Na had to retire in the second set in her quarterfinal match against Shahar Peer. Li sustained a back injury, and all we can do is hold our collective breath and hope this isn't another of those injuries that keeps Li off the tour for months. She really is cursed with some of the worst luck of any player.
Finally, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova just wasn't ready to play her best game today. She made too many errors and was a bit sluggish, allowing Venus Williams to take control of rallies and to take control of the match, 6-3, 6-4. It took Williams seven match points to get the job done, though, partly because Pavlyuchenkova fought back so hard, but also because the 3rd seed was having so much trouble with her ball toss. Throughout the match, Williams had to re-toss the ball before serving. Pavlyuchenkova and Williams, by the way, are now 2-2 in head-to-head competition.
In the semifinals, Peer will play Williams, and Azarenka will play Radwanska.