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Azarenka reaches Qatar semis

MIR BASSIT HUSSAIN

DOHA WORLD number one Victoria Azarenka registered her 15th straight win of the season in Doha on Friday to enter the semifinals of the WTA Qatar Open. The Belarusian star took just 67 minutes to outplay Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-0 6-4 and remained on track for a third title win this year, after victories at Sydney and the Australian Open.

In the first match of the day, Samantha Stosur, the reigning US Open champion, overcame a spirited fightback by Romania’s Monica Niculescu to advance to her first semifinal of the year. Australian third seed Stosur outclassed Niculescu 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

In another exciting match , world number seven Marion Bartoli of France ended the high hopes of Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. Bartoli defeated Safarova, who became one of the favorites after defeating Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

In the fourth quarterfinal match, fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat Christina McHale of the United States 6-1, 6-1, to set up a semifinal clash with top-ranked Azarenka.

“Last year, I was a little bit of a mess. I couldn’t control my emotions, and did not really enjoy playing tennis,” said Azarenka, who was ousted in the very first round by Daniela Hantuchova here last year. Recalling the 2010 Doha match, she said, “I lost a really, really bad match here and a few before that. It was just not fun for me to do, because I’m the type of player that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of desire.” The Belarusian tennis star was in a domineering form in the first set on the centre court on Friday though she faltered a bit in the second set, when she was broken for the second time in the eighth game by Wickmayer with the scores levelled at 4-4.

But Wickmayer could not hold her serve in the next game, hammering the ball into the net and then sending a backhand wide to concede what proved to be the decisive break for Azarenka. The top seed then closed out the match by winning the final game without conceding a point.

In the opening match of the day, Stosur won in a little short of two hours after totally losing her momentum in the second set and surviving a tough spell in the third when Niculescu, currently world number 31, took three games in a row to level at 3-3.

Niculescu had a wonderful opportunity to break Stosur in the seventh game when she was leading 30-0, but sent an easy volley long after a lengthy rally to give the Australian the opening she was looking for.

The odds were always in favour of the Aussie who started the match on a high note, broke the Romanian in the second game and took the set 6-2. Then it seemed that Stosur will finish the play quickly. But, to the surprise of everyone, the unseeded Romanian, after a talk with her coach, bounced back into the reckoning by winning the second set 6-2. Her comeback in the game, however, was on account of the unforced errors Stosur committed.

In the decider, Stusor started off on a confident note and broke Niculescu’s serve in the second game. However, she kept making unforced errors and the Romanian was quick to take advantage of those.

“I think it’s one of those matches where when you are in control and you have to keep going and going and know that I’m gonna miss a few but believe you’re going to make more than what you’re gonna miss,” Stosur said.

Lucie Safarova’s winning streak in the tournament was brought to an end by French world number 7 Marion Bartoli in the match which went into three sets (7-5 4-6 6-1).

The first set was always a cliffhanger with both breaking each other’s service and levelling the scores; it was the French who pulled it off at 7-5.

In the second set, Safarova created troubles for Bartoli by her cross-court shots.

With 4 aces and 21 winners, Safarova bounced back and won the set by 6-4. However, in the decider, Bartoli took control in the early stages and took the match away from her opponent, whom she sensed to be ‘tired’.

“The turning point of the match was my physical strength. I was stronger than her. She looked a bit tired, “said Bartoli.

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