“Good morning, Istanbul!” Maria Sharapova acknowledged the remaining court-side crowd after 2:00 am on Thursday morning, capping off an exhilarating, exhausting, emotional – let’s just call it “e-cubed” – day-into-late-late-night at the WTA Championships. Maria needed more than three hours to earn her spot in the semifinals, digging herself out of a 7-5, 4-2 hole against the always able Agnieszka Radwanska to eventually win it: 5-7, 7-5, 7-5. It’s true about the digging – Radwanska doled out drop shots like an early career Andy Murray – and it was great fun watching Maria scrambling up to the net to retrieve them.
Improbably, this match was the anti-climax of the evening, starting so late due to the epic battle fought just before between Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber. Angelique was one of my favorite players to watch this year, because I always got the sense that she could pull off the big upset on the big stage. The German almost pulled it off again in her second round robin match of the Championships, fighting off 6 set points to take the first set in a 13-11 tiebreak and holding 2 match points in the second set. But Vika wouldn’t be denied her first victory in this week’s tournament, roaring back (perhaps inspired by the fan with the sign reading “Love your scream”!) to take the victory 7-6 (11), 6-7 (2), 6-4. Both women showed off a mix of offense and defense, feist and fight that can only be described as, well, “e-cubed.”
Serena’s straight sets win over Li Na was limp in comparison to the other two matches, featuring more errors than any of the other e-words I’ve extolled in this post. But it was good enough to earn her a spot in the semifinals, in part helped by the fact that Azarenka needed three sets to win her match. (That’s a factoid from the WTA – I’m still struggling to get a handle on the round robin intricacies and the confusing score page on the tournament website does not help in the least!)
Serena and Azarenka face off tomorrow in Red Group play in what should be a tournament highlight. But given that Serena’s already into the semis and Vika’s probably exhausted after today’s match, I’m not sure how exciting this is going to be. But who’s complaining after today’s displays?
In a side note, Sam Stosur will take to the court tomorrow vs. Sara Errani, filling in for Petra Kvitova, who pulled out of the tournament with a virus after a teary, error strewn loss to Radwanska on Tuesday.