Serena Williams blew away fellow former No.1 Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 to join top seed Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals at the Madrid Open on Friday. The American ninth seed extended her winning streak over the Russian World No. 2 to seven in a row and to eight from 10 meetings,since they first clashed in Miami back in 2004.
Williams,unbeaten on clay this season,battered down 11 aces,including one on a second serve at break-point in the seventh game of the second set,which seemed to end any hopes Sharapova may have had of coming back into the match. She will meet either fifth-seed Samantha Stosur or Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka in the semi-finals.
World No.1 Azarenka was made to battle hard to overcome Roland Garros champion Li Na 3-6 6-3 6-3. The Belarussian,runner-up in Madrid last year,looked to be cruising at 4-1 up in the third before Chinas Li broke back. Li was unable to take advantage of four break-point chances,however,and 36 unforced errors told its own story.
Asked if it was confidence from having won four titles already this year that had seen her through the match,Azarenka responded: It wasnt very much to do with confidence. I was thinking I had to change and come up with things to surprise her because she was playing unbelievable in the first set. I had to turn something around. I dont know if it was confidence,or belief,or whether it was just pushing myself to be better.
Berdych dumps Verdasco
Tomas Berdych brought local favourite Fernando Verdasco crashing back to earth when he thrashed the 15th seed 6-1 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the mens section. Verdasco came into the match on the blue clay of the Manolo Santana show court on a high after dumping out second seed Rafa Nadal on Thursday,his first victory over his Spanish compatriot in 14 attempts.
However,sixth-seeded Czech Berdych,who thumped French 12th seed Gael Monfils 6-1 6-1 to reach the last eight,comfortably ended a two-match losing streak to Verdasco on clay to set up a semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro.
The Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna reached the semi-finals after scoring a hard-earned win over Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer. The seventh seed Indian pair edged past the Pak-Dutch combination 7-6 (2) 7-6(5) in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile,fifth seed Indo-Czech pair of Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-4 win over unseeded French rivals Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils in the second round,on Thursday. Paes and Stepanek now face second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor.