Niculescu Moves On, Venus Edges Petkovic
Published October 20, 2012 12:00
LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Venus Williams and Monica Niculescu reached the finals of the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open on Saturday evening, although one had a far quicker day at the office than the other.
And that one was Niculescu, who cruised in the first set and came back from a 2-0 hole in the second to carve out a 61 63 win over Daniela Hantuchova.
"Daniela was hitting the ball so fast and so strong, but today I felt like I was in my zone," Niculescu said. "I started very solid, playing very intense on every point and doing what I had to do from the beginning. I played unbelievable."
"My opponent made it difficult today - she plays a very awkward game and I felt I didn't deal with it very well," Hantuchova said. "Not too many players slice their forehand like she does and it's difficult to do something with her shots - you feel like you want to hit winners on every single shot but you can't, because if you rush you'll hit every single shot into the fence. I just couldn't find the answers.
"Sometimes you just try your best but nothing works."
There's something else that may have helped Niculescu - she has now reached both of her career WTA finals at this tournament, in 2011 and now 2012.
Niculescu was asked if she knew why Luxembourg has been so good to her. "No, but I would like an explanation!" she joked. "I honestly have no idea. I saw the draw and it was so tough, even from the first round against Oprandi, so I didn't have any expectations. And my year didn't go so well because I got injured and it's never easy to come back from something like that. Then I had to defend my semifinal in Beijing, and I didn't. So I wasn't expecting anything.
"I don't have an explanation - if you do, let me know!" she added.
"To defend my final and have another chance to win the title, and to be in the finals of the doubles also, everything is going fantastic. I'm so happy!"
Williams followed into the final with a grueling win over Andrea Petkovic, letting go of a 5-3 lead with double set point en route to losing the first set, but bringing her champion's heart out and toughing out a two-hour, 38-minute, 57 64 64 win.
"She's such a tough opponent - I just had to keep fighting," Williams said. "She was playing so well and attacking all the time, and the only thing you can do in a match like that is just try to win more points than your opponent - that's all I tried to do, just keep coming back, coming back, and winning more points."
Petkovic was encouraged by her week. "This was the first tournament since I came back that I felt like the old Andrea Petkovic," she said. "That's very important for me because I was doubting myself the last few weeks. I feel better about my game now; I feel like I can get back to the high level I had again."
While Niculescu has an 0-1 career record in WTA finals, Williams is a whopping 43-27 - Serena Williams is the only active player with more WTA titles - 45.
"It's great to be in the final, but I'm more focused on just winning the match, so I can win the tournament," Venus Williams said. "I don't want to stop."
Williams and Niculescu will be playing each other for the first time.
"To beat Hantuchova like that she has to be playing well," Williams said. "It'll be a different style, but players like her make the game interesting. I love watching her play. I just have to be patient and execute my game the best I can."