Thursday, January 12, 2012

Li defeats Kvitova and advances to Sydney final

If you got mixed up yesterday, and thought Sydney was Paris, don't worry--Petra Kvitova probably did, too. Because, just like at the French Open, Kvitova let go of a third set lead against Li Na, and lost the match, only this time, it was a semifinal.

For a set and a half, the defending champion was at Kvitova's mercy, and there wasn't much of it. Kvitova could just about do no wrong, and Li--though she had the right ideas--made a lot of errors and squandered a lot of opportunities. But then the Czech's level came down a bit, and she appeared more flustered than concerned. Li saw that little crack, and she straightened herself out and drove right through it.

Kvitova had taken the first set 6-1 and Li took the second, 7-5. And while Kvitova continued to look unraveled in the third set, she, too, pulled herself together, and went up 3-1. But Li made her run--a lot--and pinned her to the corners. Movement isn't Kvitova's strong suit, and now, both her speed and footwork were being exploited by the force of Li's momentum. Throughout the second half of the match, we saw Kvitova throw her racquet twice. She won only two games in the final set. She looked disgusted. This was not the Cool Czech of recent tennis history.

What happened? Only Kvitova knows, and she may  not be clear about it, herself. When Li gets switched on, however, she can do a lot of damage. Was the French Open match being viewed in Kvitova's head? Was the looming top ranking creating too much pressure? Or was it all of the above?

Li will try to win consecutive Sydney championships when she plays Victoria Azarenka in the final. Azarenka defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. I didn't see the match, but there seems to be agreement that Radwanska showed quite a bit of fatigue as the match wore on. Here's hoping she feels fresh for her Melbourne competition.

In the doubles semifinals, top seeds Kveta Peshke and Katarina Srebotnik ended the impressive run of Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 6-7, 6-3, 10-5. Their opponents in the final will be 2nd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, who defeated Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova 7-6, 6-4.

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