Indeed, the Belgian put pressure on her opponent early on, breaking Peer in the third game of the first set. Peer managed to tie the set at 3-3 when she broke Henin with a return winner off the Belgian’s second serve. However, the next three games and the set went to Henin. In the second set, Peer again was broken in her second service game, when she couldn’t convert any of her three game points. Peer continued to fight for chances to get back in the set and the match, but failed to capitalize on her two break points. The match saw a somewhat curious ending with Henin losing her step and falling down on her first match point. She took a moment to towel off and calm down again before taking the match with a backhand return winner down the line. It was her 28th winner of the match, compared to 21 unforced errors.
Henin will be hoping to win her 42nd singles title on Sunday
Henin will be hoping to win her 42nd singles title on Sunday The Israeli had the same amount of unforced errors as she did in the Quarterfinal against Safina (14), but managed to hit only as many winners today, compared to 21 in her previous match. Consistency alone wasn’t enough against Henin, who was moving well and whose ability to transition from defense to offense saw her win rally points Peer initially dictated. “She is one of the only complete players,” Peer said afterwards. “Justine was playing very well and very aggressive. If you don’t take your chances, then it’s a problem.” Still, Peer, who, with partner Cara Black, also lost in the doubles semifinal today, said she is happy with her performance this week and her season so far. “[This year] my tennis is much better and the best thing is to improve so much.”
Shahar Peer prepares to serve
Shahar Peer prepares to serve Tomorrow’s final will be Henin’s third since returning to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and she hopes to take the title this time. “I only missed sometimes a few opportunities at the beginning of the season on hard. I hope [being] on clay, it’s going to help to win this tournament. But I expect a tough match tomorrow anyway because a final is always very emotional and I still have to get used to it again, even if I had a lot of finals in the past.”
In the second semifinal, Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia, already the most successful qualifier in the history of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, was taking on Australia’s Sam Stosur. For the first 15 minutes or so, it looked like Lapushchenkova, who had beaten Victoria Azarenka and Lucie Safarova in the previous rounds would be able to score yet another upset. Stosur showed little resemblance to the player who dismissed Na Li in decisive straight sets yesterday. Against Li, Stosur didn’t face a single break point and only had seven unforced errors the entire match. Yet today, it was the Russian qualifier who raced to a 4-1 double-break lead in the first set. “It was a very tricky match,” Stosur said afterwards. “She played really well in the beginning. She hits the ball very low and flat over the net and made it difficult for me to play like I wanted.” In fact, Stosur looked lost and, at times, helpless, as she failed to find her rhythm against the Russian, whose strongest shot is her two-handed backhand.
Stosur reacts after making an error
Stosur reacts after making an error Lapushchenkova managed to hold on to her advantage to serve for the set at 5-2 and then again at 5-4, but couldn’t capitalize. “I didn’t believe I could win,” she explained after the match. Stosur, on the other hand, started to look more confident and pulled off five games in a row to take the set 7-5.
Now it was Lapushchenkova who needed some help. Reassured by her coach, she won the first eight points of the second set to get to a 2-0 lead. But it wasn’t enough. “The second set was very difficult for me. I was very, very tired,” she later commented. A statement all the more understandable considering this was her seventh match here in Stuttgart. Stosur broke back and closed out the set, 6-3, finishing with 25 unforced errors, eight fewer than her opponent. Nevertheless, the Porsche Grand Prix has been the most successful Tour-level tournament of Lapushchenkova’s career. Until this week, she had only two career Tour wins. She credits her success to her new coach. “He believes in me and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Anna Lapuschenkova spoke to the media after losing in her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour semifinal
Anna Lapuschenkova spoke to the media after losing in her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour semifinal Sunday will mark the first meeting between Henin and Stosur. “We never played each other, we never hit with each other. She is a great champion and has been the benchmark on clay for many years,” said Stosur of Henin. But despite the Belgian’s accolades, it is Stosur who extended her winning streak to 11 today. “Winning so many matches in a row is huge for my confidence,” said the Australian.
More photos from the 2010 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix
Photos: Tina van Eickels