By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin
MONTREAL – Both Li Na and Petra Kvitova came back from a set down in their respective semifinals on Sunday to reach their first ever summer North American hardcourt final. While both were bumped out in the third round last year, they showed great resistance to difficult conditions this week as they advanced to their first ever Rogers Cup final.
In the first semifinal of the day in Montreal, the opening set went to Lucie Safarova, who was standing on the baseline and redirecting Liâ€™s pace perfectly. The Czech had been particularly impressive this week, especially in her third round win in two tiebreaks over Samantha Stosur, probably the highest quality match of the tournament. Already a two-time quarterfinalist, Safarova was in her first semifinal at the Rogers Cup and aiming at reaching her second Premier final of the year.
But tenth seed Li had other things in mind as she turned the tables around in the second set, breaking early and holding serve comfortably to take it 6-3. Keeping the control of the match, she was the first player to obtain break points in the third, but inspired play by Safarova kept the set on serve. This seemed to upset Li, who started making multiple unforced errors, especially off the forehand wing, handing the Czech two consecutive breaks and a 5-1 lead. Out of nowhere, the Chinese then staged an impressive comeback, cleaning up her play and reeling off six consecutive games to win the match as Safarova collapsed.
But all isnâ€™t gloomy for Safarova, as this performance will mark her entrance in the top 20 of the professional rankings for the first time in her career. For Li, she reaches her third final of the year, still hoping to lift the winner trophy in 2012.
But she has a strong task ahead of her, as Petra Kvitova is playing some of her best hardcourt tennis. After barely losing in the second round to Pervak, the fifth seed defeated Marion Bartoli, Tamira Paszek and Caroline Wozniacki to reach her first final in North America.
In the semifinal, she managed to hit through a very solid Wozniacki, who was finding some of her 2010 form on a court where she has never lost. The Dane won the first set 6-3, but then saw the Czech lower her unforced error count and keep constant pressure to force a third set, a first in their encounters which had all been in straights.
As it is now customary this week in Montreal, some rain interrupted play right before the start of the final set. Both players came back on court around an hour later, as Kvitova started where she left. Taking a fast 5-1 lead, she managed to do what Safarova couldnâ€™t, as she prevented a comeback from Wozniacki and closed out the match 3-6 6-2 6-3.
This final will be the fourth match between Kvitova and Li, with the latter leading 2-1. Their only match on hardcourt happened earlier this year in Sydney, when the Chinese prevailed in three tough sets.
Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.
August 7-13, 2012
Results â€“ Sunday, August 12, 2012
Singles â€“ Semifinals
(5) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (7) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 36 62 63
(10) Li Na (CHN) d. (16) Lucie Safarova (CZE) 36 63 75
Doubles â€“ Final
Jans-Ignacik/Mladenovic (POL/FRA) d. (3) Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) 75 26 107 (Match TB)
Order Of Play â€“ Monday, August 13, 2012
Central (from 19.00hrs)
1. Singles Final: Petra Kvitova vs. Li Na