Underdogs beat seeds to reach Eastbourne final
Eastbourne: Russian qualifier Ekaterina Makarova and unseeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will meet in the Eastbourne final after shock semi-final wins on Friday.
Makarova, ranked 100 in the world, stunned French Open finalist and third seed Samantha Stosur 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, while Azarenka knocked out French eighth seed Marion Bartoli 6-3, 7-5.
"I was a little bit nervous, as I had not played on the centre court here before," said Makarova, who trailed 0-3 at the start.
"I was fighting for every point. Today, my second serve was sometimes much better than my first."
Even in defeat, Roland Garros finalist Stosur goes into Wimledon confident with her grass preparation.
"To have played as many matches as I have, it`s still good preparation for Wimbledon," said the Australian. "Physically I feel fine.”
"I`ll take a day off tomorrow, and then have a day or two to prepare for the first round, then two hard weeks, and then I`ll take a break.”
"I don`t think there`s anything to worry about, I`m more confident and playing better."
Azarenka, winner of the Miami title in 2009, will be playing in her second final of the season after finishing runner-up in Dubai to Venus Williams.
Saturday`s final will be the 20-year-old`s first meeting with Makarova, 22, from Moscow, who eliminated 2005 champion Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals at Devonshire Park prior to stopping Stosur.
Azaranka used an early break to win the first set against Bartoli, who stalled at the semi-final stage here for the fourth year in a row.
Azarenka and her opponent exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games of the second set with Azarenka breaking in the last game to seal the victory on her first match point.
Makarova will be bidding to clinch a first title after being beaten twice on clay last season, by Yanina Wickmayer in Estoril and by Anabel Medina Garrigues in Fez.
Stosur, who went to three sets in her last two matches and had to fight back in the quarter-finals against Briton Elena Baltacha after losing the first set, was made to pay in a marathon opening set by Makarova.
The Russian took it in just under an hour after breaking Stosur twice. The Australian battled from 2-5 down in the tie-breaker, but stalled at 5-all and Marakova eventually secured the early lead.
The second set was more evenly poised, with Stosur saving two match points in the final game before Makarova came good on a third.
Stosur, who lost the French Open final this month to Francesca Schiavone, fired six aces and saved five of eight break points in defeat.
The Australian will still move into a career-best ranking of sixth on Monday in time for the start of Wimbledon, where the sixth seed begins in the first round against Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
"I`d love to make the quarters," Stosur said of her Wimbledon dream, having never before got past the third round.
"That is my number one goal. I want to do better there than my last attempts. This surface can be good for me, it`s a matter of playing and winning more matches. I`m looking forward to playing another Slam.
"I hope I can keep building from the French, plus I also had a good Aussie Open (where she lost in the fourth round)."
Makarova was the first Eastbourne qualifier to reach the final since Vera Dushevina in 2005, where she lost to Clijsters.
The Russian has already assured herself of a Top 90 ranking, with number 75 possible if she wins the title on Saturday.
In the men`s event, French eighth seed Michael Llodra beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine 6-3, 7-5 and will bid for a second title this season when he faces Spanish fifth seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who defeated Uzbekistan`s Denis Istomin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.