|Sania Mirza and Cara Black
Beijing: Sania Mirza and Cara Black on Friday shocked top-seeded Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci to storm into the summit clash of the China Open, extending their unbeaten run to eight matches now.
Sania and Zimbabwe’s Cara, who came into the tournament after winning the Tokyo event, swept aside the challenge of formidable Italians 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 12 minutes.
On Friday, converting three of the four break chances in the second set sealed the deal for Sania and Cara. They now face winners of the second semifinal between the pairs of China’s Su-Wei Hsieh and Shuai Peng and Vera Dushevina of Russia and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain.
In the singles quarter final, Rafael Nadal survived a huge scare to beat Italian Fabio Fognini 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. He is now one victory away from returning to the top of the world rankings. The Spaniard will regain top spot if he reaches the final regardless of what current No.1 Novak Djokovic does in Beijing.
Nadal has not been ranked one in the world since July 2011.
Djokovic thumped American Sam Querrey 6-1, 6-2 to set up a semi-final against Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
“It’s something that doesn’t create more pressure for me,” Nadal. “It’s something that already happened in the past. If that happens again, it will be good, it will be special for me, but we’ll see.
“I am going to have a very tough opponent in front of me. In the end, it’s another match. True, it’s a little bit more special for the circumstances, but nothing else. It is not the moment to think about No. 1... it is the moment to think about Berdych or Isner.”
Fognini was a point away from taking a 5-1 lead in the second set and an upset was well on the cards with Nadal seemingly troubled by a left-knee injury he suffered in the opening minutes of the match. However, he found his form in the nick of time and the Italian managed just one more game.
The stylish Fognini dished out some brilliant groundstrokes in the opening set to break Nadal three times. He continued his domination in the second set as he built a 4-1 lead but faltered with victory in sight.
Nadal blazed back to win the next five games and the 27-year-old strolled through the decider to stay on course for an 11th title of an incredible season.
“It’s true that his level of tennis for a long time in the match was very, very high,” Nadal added. “When you are playing against an opponent playing well, the thing that you have to do is try to push him to the limit and try to make him play very well for a very, very long time. That’s something that I was not doing for the first set and a half. Then the situation changed a little bit.”
On the women’s front, Serena Williams brushed aside Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the semi-finals.
The top-seeded American, who has won more than $9 million in prize money in 2013, broke Wozniacki twice to breeze through the first set in 26 minutes.
Serena continued her dominance in the second set, breaking Wozniacki in the first and third games to go up 4-0. The Dane fought back, closing the gap to 4-3, but it was not enough to stop Williams from winning the set 6-4.
“I felt I played really well tonight, especially in the first set,” Serena told reporters. “I played well in the second set too, but I think Caroline just played so much better and she lifted her game so much.
“But I think overall it was the best performance I’ve had this week, which I’m excited about.”
Third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska will be up next for Serena, who took her number of wins in 2013 to 71.
Ninth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova broke the hearts of the crowd when she rallied to beat home favourite Li Na, seeded fourth, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.