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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Top four seeds in ladies' doubles semis

Photo Titled Cara Black and Liezel Huber
Cara Black and Liezel Huber

The ladies’ quarter-finals went entirely with the form-book today, with all of the top four partnerships through to the semis.

After a bit of a scare, it was the number one seeds, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, who eventually won through their match against 11th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, both of Spain, in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

An early break in the first set by the Spaniards was not relinquished as the 11th seeds outplayed the top seeds, who seemed out of sorts early on, failing to make much of an impact.

Not even a new set could break the pattern of play as Martinez Sanchez and Llagostera Vives raced to a 3-1 lead in the second. But this was to be the lowest point for the Zimbabwean and American pair. Black and Huber saw the chances of reclaiming their 2007 doubles crown disappearing and began to fight back, dominating the court.

They came back from the brink in a style befitting their first seed status, winning the next 11 games on the trot. By the third set, they looked a completely different pair from the one that had begun the match. By now they were dancing around on court between points, with high fives and punching the air. They raced through the set without losing a game and Huber served out the match. (She returned to the same court later in the day for her mixed doubles match with Jamie Murray).

Black and Huber will now face the Williams sisters in the semi-finals after the American pair beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King in straight sets.

Spain took the chance to redeem itself in the form of experienced number two seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. In a closely-fought tussle, they got the better of Russian pairing 19-year-old Alisa Kleybanova and 21-year-old Ekaterina Makarova, winning 6-4, 7-5.

The second seeds bided their time in the first set, waiting until the ninth game to make the break of service that counted, enabling the Spaniards to close the set out on 26-year-old Medina Garrigues’s serve.

The Russian pair played confidently in the second set and looked as though they might take it to a final set, as 35-year-old Ruano Pascual served to stay in the set at 4-5. But, having held to level the set, agile all-court play by the second seeds worked a break point. It was the only one they needed for a 6-5 lead. The Spaniards had to save three break points on the Medina Garrigues serve, which they did with some aplomb, before claiming the match.

In the other quarter-final match, third-seeded Aussie pair Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs eventually came through against unseeded opponents Kristina Barrois and Tathiana Garbin, winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In part, the match followed a similar pattern to that of the first seeds. The number three seeds appeared lacklustre in the first set, quickly losing the first three games and only managing to win a Stubbs serve in the entire set. The pairing of Germany’s Barrois and Italy’s Garbin looked much the stronger.

Fortunes changed in the second set. The third seeds started serving in a more focused and determined manner, preventing their European opponents from getting a true foothold in the set. The Australian pair broke in the fourth game and kept up the pressure. By the time 25-year-old Stosur served out the second set to love, they were back in the ascendancy.

But it was short-lived as the final set turned into a mini-thriller, full of tight tennis, short shots, long lobs and spinning serves. A medical time-out after the third game for 31-year-old Tathiana Garbin for left thigh pain only heightened the tension. The third seeds finally made the critical break in the nine game, leaving Stosur to serve out to love, much as she had done in the second set.

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