Serena, Sharapova ousted; Nadal smothers DimitrovArchive
MADRID: Serena Williams’s stunning 27-match winning streak was snapped in resounding fashion by Petra Kvitova on Friday as the Czech progressed to the Madrid Open final 6-2, 6-3.
Kvitova will face Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova in Saturday’s final after she also pulled off a big upset in beating defending champion Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-4.
However, there was no such upset for home favourite and four-time champion Rafael Nadal as he moved into the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Grigor Dimitrov.
Kvitova has only recently returned to the tour following a two-month break after admitting to feeling physically and mentally exhausted, but she looked the fresher player in wrapping up victory in just over an hour on court.
“I was very slow off the mark. After my serve I wasn’t moving as well as I should have. I wasn’t in it, I wasn’t Serena today,” said Serena.
After a tight start, Wimbledon champion Kvitova reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 to take the first set.
Kvitova then stormed into an apparently unassailable 5-1 lead in the second.
However, Serena had battled back from three match points down against Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday and ensured a nervy end for Kvitova by getting one of the breaks back to close to 5-3.
Yet, there was to be no repeat of the 19-time Grand Slam champion’s heroics earlier in the week as Kvitova broke again on her first match point to seal her first victory over Serena in six attempts.
“I had never beaten her, so it is special day for me and I am happy it is in a semi-final here in Madrid so I can play the final,” said Kvitova.
Kuznetsova also kept her fairytale return to form going as she scored her first victory over Sharapova in seven years to reach her first premier mandatory final since 2009.
“This week I was fighting. I was a little bit lucky in some moments,” said Kuznetsova. “Winning matches doesn’t take only (physical) strength, but mental strength also.”
Defending champion Sharapova was the heavy favourite to reach the final for a third consecutive year with the 29-year-old Kuznetsova having spent nearly six hours on court in the past two days to reach the last four.
However, it was the two-time Grand Slam champion who dictated from the off and didn’t drop her serve once in the match.
“I don’t think it caught me by surprise. I’m playing in a semi-final of a tournament, you have to be ready for it. She was just the better player,” said Sharapova.
Nadal had warned that his form on the clay after failing to win a title since the European season began in Monte Carlo and Barcelona would be put to the test by Dimitrov and the Spaniard looked back to his old self on his favoured surface.
The world number four constantly put the Dimitrov serve under pressure as he had break points on every one of the Bulgarian’s service games in the first set and converted three of them.
Dimitrov went up an early break in the second, but Nadal roared back to win five of the last six games and set up a semi-final meeting with Tomas Berdych or John Isner.
“I played a complete match, apart from two games in the second set when my intensity dipped a little, said Nadal. “I am very happy, very satisfied and it is a great result to be in the semi-final. I have passed an important test.”
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2015
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