Moscow: Victoria Azarenka of Belarus reached her fourth final of the season here on Saturday, defeating Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the semi-finals of the WTA Kremlin Cup.
The 21-year-old second seed won comfortably 6-3, 6-3 in one hour 16 minutes to record her first win over Sanchez in what was their third head-to-head meeting.
“You never know what to expect of her,” Azarenka said of her opponent.
“I chose the right tactics against Sanchez. I did not allow her to change rhythm as she likes doing and played aggressively on her serve.”
“Sanchez served hard and won many points on her serve. But I was battling for every single point and that was the key to my victory.”
In a tight opening to the tie, games went with serve until the sixth game, when Azarenka, who was playing her seventh semi-final of the year, broke the Sanchez serve to take the opening set in 37 minutes.
In the second set Azarenka, who is ranked 10th in the world, underlined her domination on the hardcourt of Moscow’s Olympic indoor stadium producing two more breaks to win the set and the match.
In the other semi-final Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, the sixth seed, cruised comfortably into the final by defeating compatriot Vera Dushevina 6-1, 6-1.
Kirilenko, 23, came into the match full of confidence and broke her opponent’s serve twice in the opening set which she took in 33 minutes.
In the second set Kirilenko, who is 24th in the WTA rankings, remained in command breaking Dushevina’s serve a further two times to clinch a place in the final after one hour 11 minutes on court.
“I expected a much tougher semi-final,” Kirilenko said. “I played excellent today, while Vera (Dushevina) was making too many unforced mistakes in lengthy rallies.”
In the ATP section of the event fourth seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus performed a dramatic comeback in the third set to oust unheralded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/2) on his way to the final.
Baghdatis started with an immediate break keeping his narrow lead throughout the fisrt set to lift himself one set up.
No big serves were made in the second set, which went to a tiebreak. Istomin, 24, was just a bit more accurate to level at one set-all after one hour 35 minutes.
In the third Baghdatis suddenly lost his nerve and performed a catalogue of errors allowing Istomin to break twice from the start.
The 25-year-old Cypriot fought tooth and nail and broke back twice to pull the scores level forcing a tiebreak, which he won to make his season’s third final.
“I started the third set pretty bad... but fought up to the end,” Baghdatis said. “Fortunately I won. I’m happy and I’ll try to play better tomorrow.”
In the earlier semi-final Viktor Troicki of Serbia saw off Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 on his way to the final.
The opponents traded breaks from the start, before Serbia’s 24-year-old broke in the sixth game to gain a one-set advantage.
In the second set Troicki moved up a gear to take three consecutive games from the seventh to win the set, the match and a pass into his first ATP final of the year.