BEIJING, China -- While Serena Williams' withdrawal stole the early headlines, No. 3 Petra Kvitova and No. 4 Maria Sharapova eased into the semifinals at the China Open with their victories on Friday. Kvitova extended her current win-streak to seven matches by defeating Roberta Vinci 7-6 (2), 6-4 and will face Sam Stosur in the semifinals. Sharapova played her best match of the tournament with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The Russian, into just her second semifinal since winning the French Open in May, earns a semifinal rematch against No. 9 Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic, who got a walkover from Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, has beaten Sharapova in their last two matches. Most memorable was the 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 win in the Western & Southern Open semifinals this summer, in which Ivanovic saved match point and Sharapova appeared to call her out for an ill-timed medical timeout early in the second set.
"It was a very tough match we had in Cincinnati," Sharapova said. "Just a point away from winning the match. It was a tough one to lose."
Both Sharapova and Kvitova have an opportunity to move up to No. 2 after Beijing. A title run would assure the winner the No. 2 spot. and securing that ranking slot before the WTA Finals would assure group placement opposite Serena. With Serena's withdrawal from the China Open, the year-end No. 1 ranking could be in play in Singapore. Sharapova says she's not thinking about it.
"I mean, honestly, in the middle of the year everyone was talking about me staying in the top 10 for such a long period of time," Sharapova said. "Every match I played, a three-setter, they go, If she doesn't win this one, she'll be out of the top 10. Honestly, I faced those questions for quite a few tournaments.... To be able to put myself back in the position to be No. 1 again is incredible. I didn't know whether I would be able to have that consistency before the year started."
Kvitova overcame a slow start to reel in Vinci, rallying from 1-5 down in the first set to force a tiebreaker and win the set. "She's not really my favorite player to play against," Kvitova said. "I mean, she has really different game which not really suits me. She has great slice and it [gives] me lots of troubles over there." The Czech is now 13-1 over her last four tournaments, with the one loss coming in the third round of the U.S. Open to Aleksandra Krunic. Kvitova's strong run of form comes at a time when the energy and motivation levels on tour can be difficult. "I'm not feeling with the full of energy," she said. "I'm tired. But it's for everybody same. I'm not injured. But, of course, your body, it's feeling heavy."
Kvitova is 6-1 against Stosur, with that one loss coming on clay. She secured her spot for the WTA Finals last week, easing the pressure as she plays out the rest of the season. "It's a long season," Kvitova said. "Normally we are alone on the tournaments. It's just hotel room. Then you are glad if you are onsite and you can chat with somebody. If nobody's in the locker room, it's tough. Yeah, I think a lot of players are, like, tired already and are looking forward to go home and be there. But on the other side, it's a big tournament and everybody is happy we're still in the draw and still playing."