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Sisters Set Up SF Date in Dubai

The Williams sisters are to meet in the semifinals at Dubai, while in the other half of the draw two surprise packets will battle it out.

Published February 19, 2009 12:00

DUBAI, UAE - France's Virginie Razzano claimed her second Top 10 scalp of the week on Thursday, scoring an emotional win over Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. Her opponent in the semis will be No.16 seed Kaia Kanepi, who backed up her third round upset of Jelena Jankovic with victory over Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina. The other semifinal pits Venus and Serena Williams against each other for the 19th time in their professional careers; their head-to-head is evenly poised at 9-9, so Friday's winner will break the deadlock.

To reach the semis Venus maintained her winning edge over Elena Dementieva, while Serena beat Ana Ivanovic in the final match of the evening, but the early part of the day belonged to world No.58 Razzano, who had set the tone for her week when she sent No.2 seed Dinara Safina reeling in the second round.

Having beaten Daniela Hantuchova in three sets in the last 16, the 25-year-old came out firing against fifth seed Zvonareva, her rangy groundstrokes getting the better of the Russian and carrying her to a 5-3 lead. Although Zvonareva was able to force a tie-break, the Frenchwoman held on for a one set lead.

In the second set, which would involve seven breaks of serve, Razzano again built a 5-3 advantage, but faltered when time came to serve for the match. Her errors helped Zvonareva, nonplussed by several line calls, to again draw level at 5-5, but, under pressure to hold serve two games later to keep the contest alive, the 24-year-old succumbed when Razzano seized on a short ball to fire a backhand down the line. She was through to arguably the biggest semifinal of her career, 76(7) 75.

"Today I wasn't ready to stay out there for three hours like she was," lamented Zvonareva. "It was mentally tough for me because I was fighting through so many matches in a row.

"I had concentration lapses throughout the whole match. I would play a game or two and then I would completely go down for a game or two, and you cannot do it at such a level against a player who is in form."

While Razzano is on track for a return to the Top 50, Kanepi is expected to become the first Estonian to crack the Top 20 next Monday, regardless of the outcome of their semifinal. As she had against Jankovic, Kanepi tightened in the closing stages of her match against Vesnina - she was broken to love when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set - but she immediately broke Vesnina again, and didn't miss a beat the second time around to end the encounter, 63 75.

"It was difficult," said Kanepi. "I didn't play my best game and she hit some uncomfortable shots for me. I had so many chances in the first few games to break her but didn't take my chances. Then when I was serving for the match I rushed too much."

While the two surprise packets battle it out in one semi, the other side of the draw has offered up a more predictable - but inevitably intriguing - match-up between the Williams sisters. Sixth seed Venus was the first to secure her berth, extending her record against No.4 seed Dementieva to 8-2 courtesy of a straightforward 63 63 scoreline; later, top seed Serena clawed back a second set deficit to down No.8 seed Ana Ivanovic in two entertaining sets, 64 64.

"She killed me last time," said Serena of her last match against Venus, which ended with a third set bagel in round robin play at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha in November. "Hopefully I will be able to do better this time."

The doubles semis have also been determined in Dubai, and will involve three of the four top-seeded teams. No.1 seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber face No.3 seeds Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs, while No.4 seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Francesca Schiavone take on unseeded Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska.

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