Cirstea admitted her foot continued to trouble her, but she never used it as an excuse. “Sam was playing so good, I mean, she didn’t give me any chances. So, all the credit to her.” She expressed some frustration with not being able to break the Aussie but remained upbeat. “It was a good week for me and I just need to take the positive stuff. It’s a good start of the hard court season.”
Samantha Stosur will reach the Top 15 in singles if she wins in Sunday's final
In this rematch between the two French Open quarterfinalists, history repeated itself with the outcome. The Australian was calm and in control from the start, mixing up the pace and variety from all corners and throwing in killer kick serves. Cirstea stood several feet behind the baseline in an attempt to get a racquet on a return and tried mightily to match Stosur shot-for-shot but wound up missing too often by going for too much. “These courts kind of suit me,” Sam admitted. “The balls can get pretty high and bouncy on the court and the heat also helps out as well. I feel really good about playing out here on these courts.” She’s hoping the fifth time is the charm in her quest for her first WTA Tour singles title, having lost in four finals before.
Sorana Cirstea serves in the semifinal
While Stosur prepares for Sunday’s final, Cirstea looks ahead to the remaining hard court season. A youngster on the rise, Sorana is very composed and confident about the direction of her career. She’s making all the right moves, crediting time spent training in Las Vegas with Gil Reyes and Darren Cahill for making her stronger, and states her coach Sven Groeneveld and the Adidas Player Development Program have, “changed my mentality a lot. They made me see things different and now I’m so much calmer on the court. I think the way I’m playing now is because of them.”
Not So Silent Night - Flavia Pennetta d. Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Despite a raucous crowd behind her and a fireworks display befitting the sparks flying about the court, Maria Sharapova’s run in Carson City came to a slow, screeching halt tonight at the hands of last year’s finalist, Flavia Pennetta. Trading blows at the baseline, the Italian was all business early on, consistently delivering the winning shot in rallies and looking ready to wrap things up in two sets. Maria looked slower from the start and said as much in her presser afterwards. “Obviously, I didn’t feel physically fresh from the beginning of the match.”
Pennetta has reached the LA final for the second year in a row
However, Sharapova is not one to go giving anything away. “I tried to be more aggressive. I wasn’t doing that very good in the beginning,” she said. “And then I slowly started getting into it and challenging her and putting her in situations where she had to come up with the good stuff in order to finish the match.”
A struggling serve forced the Russian to up the ante in her return game, and suddenly Pennetta found herself stumbling in her own service games. “Well, I think because she starting to return very well and I was very afraid, that’s why,” Flavia explained. “For play against her, I have to be very aggressive. In the first set, it was working very well. In the second set, I started just to wait for her mistake and that was why the match changed so much.”
A chat with her coach helped Flavia right the ship in time to close out the final set. “I was thinking too much about her and he just told me to be focused on my game and not think about what she’s doing or what my serve was doing. Just play and be aggressive.”
Maria Sharapova was able to point out the positive in having reached and being able to stay competitive semifinal
Maria confessed, “I feel like there’s still a lot of work to be done,” but her confidence remains unshaken. “I’m able to beat girls that have been playing all year long; and, making so many unforced errors that I have and still being able to beat them or taking them to the third set is a pretty darn good accomplishment, so it makes me feel really good about the rest of my game.”
Eight Dames A-Dueling - Chia-Jung Chuang/Zi Yan d. Vania King/Monica Niculescu, 1-6, 6-2, 11-9
The opening doubles semifinal seemingly belonged to American Vania King and her Romanian partner Monica Niculescu. The fiery and expressive Niculescu, in particular, is fun to watch. She has quick hands and loves to rush the net. The duo breezed through the first set thanks to the multiple gifts of service breaks and unforced errors coming across the net from their opponents CJ Chuang and Zi Yan. But once the team from Chinese Taipei and China finally found their form and got on the board, they stole the momentum and then, the second set.
The third set super-tiebreak was tight. In doubles, these tiebreaks are not about luck; they show which team can deliver the goods under pressure. Vania and Monica not only lost an early lead, but they blew two match points. Yan and Chuang didn’t make that mistake.
Vania King came close to reaching the final with partner Monica Niculescu, but were unable to convert two match points.
Maria Kirilenko/Agnieszka Radwanska d. Su-Wei Hsieh/Shuai Peng, 6-1, 6-2
Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska were dominant in the second doubles semi
The second doubles semifinal was equally lopsided but this time Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng, another combination of a Chinese Taipei and China nationals were simply and utterly outmatched by two stronger, solid players in Russia’s Maria Kirilenko and Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. Their aggressive shotmaking was more than the Asian duo could handle and, in less than an hour, they had secured the remaining spot in the finals.
More photos from the 2009 LA Women's Tennis Championships.
Photos: Danielle Lescure