Kvitova closes on top ranking as Wozniacki loses


Caroline Wozniacki was dumped from the Sydney International on Wednesday, opening the way for rival Petra Kvitova to seize the world number one ranking heading into next week’s Australian Open. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova set up a semi-final clash with defending champion Li Na after an emphatic straight sets victory over Daniela Hantuchova. Wozniacki crashed out to Polish world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarter-finals after being broken while serving out for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
Radwanska will now face Belarussian third seed Victoria Azarenka in Thursday’s semis, with Kvitova lining up against Chinese defending champion Li Na in the day’s other semi-final. Wimbledon champion Kvitova had an emphatic straight sets victory over Daniela Hantuchova, while world number five Li downed Czech Lucie Safarova 6-2, 7-6 (7/3). Kvitova is on track to take the number one ranking by winning the tournament. “To be honest, I don’t think about it (losing top ranking),” Wozniacki said. “The most important thing is to be healthy and be able play and play well. What happens happens. It doesn’t matter.” Wozniacki, whose tenure at the top of the women’s singles rankings comes despite not yet winning a grand slam in 19 attempts, was taken to a third set by Radwanska after appearing to be in a winning position.
The Dane seemed troubled by a left wrist injury as Radwanska broke her three times in the final to claim only her second victory in seven meetings. “I hope it’s not serious. I could feel it, especially in the third set,” Wozniacki said. “I’m going to go get it checked out tomorrow, and hopefully it’s OK. “Let’s just hope for the best. I should be completely fine for Australian Open.” Earlier Kvitova reeled off the opening eight games before dishing out a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Hantuchova, the Slovak number 21. Kvitova, who like Li has been in top form in preparation for the season’s first grand slam in Melbourne, swept to victory breaking Hantuchova’s service five times for her fourth win over the Slovakian.
“I was surprised that I played well. In these (windy) conditions it’s very tough to play,” Kvitova said. “Yeah, I’m still on the track. But still it’s two matches, and the next one is really tough against Li Na,” Kvitova said. “She is tough opponent. She’s in top five, so it will be good match for tomorrow.” Li said she was playing her best tennis since before last year’s Wimbledon as she battled into the semi-finals.
The world number five needed one hour 50 minutes to subdue battling Czech Safarova in blustery conditions to move into the last four in the defence of the Sydney title she won last year. It was Li’s third win this week, continuing her upsurge in form after a dismal follow-up to her landmark French Open success at Roland Garros, which saw her become the first Asian to win a grand slam title.
Li, 29, was clearly relieved to have put her problems of the second half of 2011 behind her and is eyeing back-to-back Sydney finals. “Of course I’m feeling good,” she said. “Win here last year and this year reach the semis in just the beginning of the year, yeah, I am feeling much, much stronger.” Li, who only won seven matches after her French Open breakthrough, said she was back in the form she had enjoyed prior to Wimbledon, where she bowed out to Germany’s Sabine Lisicki in the second round.
“Last year before Wimbledon,” Li said, when asked the last time she was playing at this level. “I mean, even in Wimbledon I was feeling I was playing well. But after that I don’t know what happened. Didn’t work.” Belarussian Azarenka downed France’s Marion Bartoli 7-5, 6-4 in their quarter-final.