Sure-footed Bartoli into Eastbourne semis


Defending champion Marion Bartoli trod carefully on a rain-slick court to advance to the semi-finals of the Eastbourne grass tournament on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Czech Lucie Safarova. The Frenchwoman, who plays next against either Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova or Tamira Paszek of Austria, was so intent on her victory that she automatically adapted to conditions to earn the win in 73 minutes. “We had like five minutes of rain I think after the first set, it started to get a bit wet,” said the 2007 Wimbledon finalist. “But then we had sunny patches, so the court was dry again. “I was glad to finish before the rain started. But I was so focused on what I had to do that I didn’t feel it was bothering me much. “But on grass you have to be very careful, because when it gets wet you can really hurt yourself quite badly, which is the last thing you want to do three days before a Grand Slam.” Bartoli is playing the Wimbledon tune-up for the ninth year in a row and could become the first champion here since Justine Henin in 2007 to defend her title at Devonshire Park. The winner lost just two points on serve in the second set and ended with four breaks of her opponent’s serve. “So far, I’ve been able to play well and to stay consistent into my matches, which is really important on grass,” said Bartoli, 23-13 this season with seven career titles. The fourth seed was joined as a winner by Klara Zakopalova, with the Czech winning the last five games to defeat Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 7-5. The contest was stalled by passing rain with Zakapalova leading a set and 6-5 after a sixth double-fault from her opponent led to a break point and the conversion. The pair came back out when conditions cleared and played for three more minutes as Zakapalova advanced a step closer to a possible second grass trophy after winning in the Netherlands in 2005. The other two quarter-finals were caught by another more lengthy rain interruption as German fifth seed Angelique Kerber faced 2010 Eastbourne winner Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and the Pironkova-Paszek match was halted by weather in the second set.