Venus Williams defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2 in Dubai this evening, rather easily advancing to the 2014 final. Williams, a two-time champion in Dubai, is now 5-0 against Wozniacki in career competition.
It was assumed by many that Venus's victory in the semifinal was the first step toward what would have been the 25th meeting of the Williams sisters, but a Frenchwoman got in the way. That pesky Frenchwoman is Alize Cornet, who beat Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 to advance to her seventh WTA final.
When Cornet was a 17-year-old, fresh on the scene, she showed quite a bit of promise. But her head got in the way of her tennis (there's a lot of that going around), and for the next several years, she was streaky at her best times. But in the past year, the emotionally-driven 24-year-old Frenchwoman has pulled her game together more, and perhaps more important--she has tamed her emotional reactions. She's still streaky, but she's definitely a more mature player.
Her backhand down the line left Serena just "standing there" several times tonight. Cornet hung in the long rallies against Williams with a ferocity that was to be admired. For her part, Williams just had trouble getting into a rhythm after she was broken in the first set. In the second set, there were several moments of "this is what happens to you when you make Serena mad," and common wisdom would have given the world number 1 the second set, and maybe a blowout in the third.
But Cornet just kept coming at her, defending with a frenzy, spinning balls at Williams, moving her around, and then--it was over. After the match, Serena--in true Serena fashion--said she thought maybe she had been influenced by a cute turtle at her hotel that she looks at every day.
In doubles, Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova, after taking out 2nd seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals, did the same with Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova in the semifinals. And with the same scoreline--6-4, 6-4. In the other semifinal, Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears defeated Flavia Pennetta and Sam Stosur 6-3, 6-2. Kops-Jones and Spears upset top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals.
This tournament has taught us, yet again, not to have too many expectations. The world number 1 is out, a long-struggling Venus Williams is in yet another big final, and the two top doubles teams are out. 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska went out courtesy of Flavia Pennetta (who then lost to Venus).
Not so surprising, though unfortunate, was Doha champion Simona Halep's first round retirement because of an Achilles tendon problem that's been troubling her for a while. And not so surprising--though beyond unfortunate--was the second round upset of defending champion Petra Kvitova.