Venus and Vaidisova Victorious in Istanbul
On a warm Friday afternoon, former No.1 Venus Williams and rising star Nicole Vaidisova both took one step closer to winning their first titles of the season, as semifinal action was completed at the inaugural Istanbul Cup, a Tier III clay court event in Istanbul, Turkey.
The top-seeded Williams, currently ranked No.13, defeated 220th-ranked qualifier Tszvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 61 63 to reach her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour final since Antwerp in February.
Pironkova, who was making her Tour debut this week, appeared nervous in the first set, spraying balls long, wide and into the net. However, once her nerves settled, she was able to execute the powerful and accurate groundstrokes that took her to the final four. Despite losing her serve early in the second set, the Bulgarian managed to stay toe-to-toe with Venus, but faltered again on serve in the last game of the match to give the win to the American.
"I think she has a good future ahead of her," said Williams on Pironkova. "She hits a nice ball, and she's very quick around the court. I think after she got rid of her nerves she was able to show more of her game."
On Saturday, Williams will be gunning for her 32nd career Tour title. It has been over a year since the four-time Grand Slam champion won her last event, which came at Warsaw in early May of last year. She has looked impressive all week in Istanbul, routing 117th-ranked Spaniard Marta Marrero 60 60 in her opening round, and easing past 60th-ranked Russian Anna Chakvetadze 62 61 in Thursday's quarterfinals.
No.2 seed Vaidisova, currently ranked No.39, dropped the first set but cruised the rest of the way in a 46 61 60 win over No.3 seed Anna Smashnova of Israel. The 49th-ranked Smashnova raced out to a 4-0 lead en route to claiming the first set, but the match turned around quickly afterwards, with the Czech teenager dropping just one more game and losing just six points in the 19-minute final set.
"I started out slowly today, and it took me a while to get used to her game," said Vaidisova on Smashnova. "Once I found my rhythm I was feeling pretty good out there."
Vaidisova has already won Sony Ericsson WTA Tour titles at Vancouver and Tashkent last year, and will be playing in her first Tier III final. She began her week with a 62 63 win over 212th-ranked Croatian qualifier Ivana Abramovic, then almost let a 5-2 second set lead slip away in the quarterfinals before closing out 46th-ranked German Anna-Lena Groenefeld 75 76(6).
On Saturday, Williams and Vaidisova will be playing each other for the first time. It will be just the second time this season after the Tokyo final between top seed Lindsay Davenport and second seed Maria Sharapova that the top two seeds play for the championship.
"I was happy with the way I played today," said Williams on her current form. "I'm really looking forward to keeping it going tomorrow."
"As the No.2 seed in this tournament I kind of expected to at least get to the final, so to do that is really good," said Vaidisova on reaching the championship round. "I've never played Venus before so I'll just go out there and play my game."
In the doubles final, No.4 seeds Marrero and Antonella Serra Zanetti will take on unseeded Austrian sisters Daniela and Sandra Klemenschits.