WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia: Day 3
With one day to play in the round robin stage of the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, the four players through to the semi-finals were, although the exact line-up of the semis remains to be decided.
Top seed and title favourite Caroline Wozniacki made it three wins out of three matches, defeating Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova in her final match, but was finally tested for the first time in Sofia.
Hantuchova, needing a win to stay in the hunt for a place among the final four, played aggressively from the start and it paid off early one for the Slovak, who won the first set. In the second, Hantuchova broke Wozniacki when the Dane was serving for the set, but it proved to be a temporary success – a number of unforced errors by Hantuchova in the tie-break handed the set to Wozniacki.
In the decisive set, Wozniacki finally showed the form that helped her win the first two matches handily, saving six break points. Serving to stay in the match and 40-0 up, Hantuchova made several mistakes, including a double fault, and Wozniacki won on the very first match ball.
The final score was a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 win for Wozniacki after two hours and 45 minutes of play, but with a rest day on November 2, the former world number one will have plenty of time to recover before the semi-finals.
In the other match in the Serdika group, Italy’s Roberta Vinci made short work of defeating Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan (6-1, 6-2) in the shortest match of the tournament so far, which lasted only 53 minutes. Vinci has secured the second place in the group and has completed her round robin matches, so she too will rest on November 2.
In the only Sredets group match on day three, it was an all-Russian affair between Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko, going to three sets and lasting two hours and 49 minutes. The two know each other well, since they are doubles partners and won the end-of-season WTA Championship for doubles last week in Istanbul.
Kirilenko started strongly, winning the first set 6-3, but was often on the defensive in the second set, which went to a tie-break that Petrova won 7-6 (7-4). In the final set, Kirilenko looked worse for the wear and required a time-out to recover from cramps – in the end, she lost the set 3-6.
After the match, Kirilenko withdrew from the tournament, citing an upper respiratory illness, thus handing Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova (who had a rest day on November 1) a spot in the semi-finals.
“I’m very sorry that I cannot continue to play my matches here […] Unfortunately with this illness I can’t finish the tournament as I’d have wished, but I’ve really enjoyed my time in Bulgaria and hope to be back,” Kirilenko said.
Pironkova will play Nadia Petrova in a head-to-head encounter that will decide the first spot in the Sredets group. Pironkova won their only previous meeting, on clay in Brussels. The winner will face Vinci in the semis and the loser will play against Wozniacki.
In the other two matches, which will have little bearing on the final standings but will still secure WTA Tour points for the winner, Hantuchova will play Hsieh Su-wei and Zheng Jie of China will play against substitute Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden.
(Petrova, pictured, prevailed over fellow Russian Kirilenko to secure her spot in the semis. Photo: sofia-tennis.bg)