Kuznetsova defeats Hingis, Sharapova in semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Apsharapova.jpg' class='caption'> Third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Martina Hingis 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 on Friday to reach the Zurich Open semifinals.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Martina Hingis 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 on Friday to reach the Zurich Open semifinals, rebounding from a poor performance at home last week. "I'm not really happy with the second set, but I'm happy with the rest," said Kuznetsova, who lost her opening match in Moscow last week. "She played more aggressively and I started to play worse in the second set but I knew the match was still in my hands if I played the last set like I did the first." Earlier, US Open champion Maria Sharapova beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-4, 6-3, boosting her chances of finishing the year atop the WTA Tour rankings. In the semifinals, Kuznetsova will face Daniela Hantuchova, who received a walkover when Amelie Mauresmo withdrew with a shoulder injury on Thursday. Sharapova will play Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik, who advanced by defeating Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-2. Kuznetsova's victory evened the four-match series this year against Hingis, adding to her three-set win in Miami in April. Hingis won their last meeting in Montreal in August and their first in Doha in March. After being dominated by Kuznetsova in the opening set, Hingis sought court-side help from hitting partner Radim Valigura - currently acting as her coach. Zurich is one of five tournaments this season where the WTA Tour is testing the concept. After a surprisingly effective pep talk, Hingis rallied to easily win the second set. The final set was more balanced, though Kuznetsova broke Hingis to lead 3-0. Hingis rallied to lead 30-0 on Kuznetsova's serve at 5-3, but the Russian pulled even, then reached match point with a forehand that Hingis sent into the net. Kuznetsova sealed the win with a massive, unattainable cross court shot. "As a competitor you want to win, especially when you're playing at home," said Hingis, who was making her first appearance at the tournament in six years. "On the other hand, she played a great first set and I was happy to get going in the second set. That gave me belief I could give her a fight." The semifinal appearance comes after Kuznetsova was beaten in her first match by Nathalie Dechy last year and failed to qualify for the main draw in 2003. "I think I'm a higher-level player now - more consistent and mature," the Russian said. "Last year maybe I might have had the level, but I couldn't keep it every tournament." Hingis' hopes dashed Hingis was hoping to ensure herself a berth for the season-ending WTA Championship in Madrid by reaching the semifinals. Justine Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo, Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova all have qualified for the Nov. 7-12 tournament, and only two berths remain with two weeks of tournaments left. Hingis is battling Kim Clijsters and Patty Schnyder for the two spots. Hingis, who will take time off to rest sore adductor muscles, would miss the event only if Schnyder wins the titles in Linz, Austria, next week, and in Hasselt, Belgium the following week. Second-seeded Sharapova broke Bacsinszky's opening serve in the first set but then struggled. She needed four set points to win the first set in 42 minutes. Bacsinszky double-faulted to face break point on her opening serve of the second set, and the Russian converted with a stunning winning volley. The players traded breaks before another double fault gave Sharapova match point at 5-3. Bacsinszky sent a wild backhand three feet wide to give Sharapova victory. "You're up 4-1 with two breaks, you think you've got the match, you get a bit sloppy and start thinking about things you shouldn't be, like 'this match should be over already,'" Sharapova said. "That's what happens when you haven't been playing a lot." Sharapova's slim chances of the year-end No. 1 ranking improved on Thursday when top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo withdrew with a shoulder injury. Sharapova realistically needs to win or at least reach the final in Zurich because she will only have next week's tournament in Linz, Austria, before the WTA Championships in Madrid. (AP)

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