Maria Kirilenko was next to perfect in her first set against 8th seed Nadia Petrova today in the New Haven semifinals. Her clean, stylish game (one I always enjoy) got her a 6-2 set win, as Petrova had issues with consistency, and with her backhand. Shortly after that set ended, however, Kirilenko's received treatment for back pain (she has a history of back problems). When she returned to the court following treatment, she was making an obvious effort to keep the points shorter, and it didn't work for her.
At the same time, Petrova pulled her game up to the considerably high level of which she is capable. The backhand began to work very well, and the 8th seed took the last two sets at 6-2 apiece.
Often, when an opponent is injured, a player has some difficulty competing against her, but Petrova said it was Kirilenko's injury that gave her a chance to sharpen her mentality and get her game back on track. Petrova had a setback this summer because of heat illness that she experienced in Cincinnati, and she said she was grateful to get a wild card into the Pilot Pen draw.
She has used that wild card well. In the final, she will play either top seed and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki or 4th seed Elena Dementieva, who also came into the tournament via a wild card.
Petrova hit eight aces in her semifinal match today, and is now the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ace leader for the season.
As for Kirilenko, she has hurt her back right before a major tournament in which--if healthy--she has the potential to do quite well. Here's hoping this is more of a tweak than an injury--the current situation is getting more serious by the minute.