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Ivanovic Safely Into St. Petersburg SFs

Ana Ivanovic moved confidently in the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies Open with a 6-1, 7-5 win over qualifier Kateryna Kozlova.

Published February 12, 2016 12:14

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Ana Ivanovic moved confidently in the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies Open with a 6-1, 7-5 win over qualifier Kateryna Kozlova.

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In her opening round match Ivanovic took a while to get into her groove, but against Kozlova she hit the ground running, reeling off five straight games to pocket the opening set in 23 minutes. Kozlova, who was appearing the quarterfinals of a Premier event for the first time, gave a better account of herself in the second, battling back from 5-3 down before eventually succumbing.

Meeting Ivanovic for a place in the final will be another of the draw's more established names, Roberta Vinci. And Vinci needed to draw on all her experience to see off Timea Babos in an absorbing encounter, 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(4).

Babos was in command for much of the final set - leading 5-3 and then 4-2 in the tie-break - but was unable to find the decisive blow. The decisive moment came in the 10th point of the tie-break when Vinci skipped around a second serve only to flash a forehand fractionally wide.

The Hungarian's relief was short-lived, though, Hawk-Eye adjudging the ball to have clipped the outer edge of the sideline. This successful challenge took the No.2 seed to match point, which she converted when Babos sent a weary forehand sailing beyond the baseline.

"It was a long match, a tough match. Timea has a great serve - always 190km/h. Tough for me to return," Vinci said. "I was 5-3 down at the end, but I stayed focused and won a great match today.

"In those moments you have to stay positive and don't think about the score. In the end she was probably a little bit nervous, and a little bit tight, she missed some easy balls and I won."

Vinci has lost six of her previous nine meetings with Ivanovic, although the two have not crossed paths for a couple of years.

"Ana is a great player. Of course it will be a difficult match. But I'm in the semifinals, nothing to lose, just enjoy! I will try my best - I need to be aggressive every single point. We will see."

In the evening session, top seed Belinda Bencic kept alive her hopes of finishing the week inside the Top 10 thanks to a hard-fought win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic, who will rise to No.9 in the rankings by reaching the final, was tense early on before loosening up in the final two sets to triumph, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. 

"I was very pleased with how I fought, even though I was struggling very much with my game," Bencic said. "It's a bigger achievement when you do this than when you play good and win, so I'm happy to get through."

Bencic plays another Russian player next, Daria Kasatkina, a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 winner over Dominika Cibulkova. Contemporaries in their youth, Bencic is familiar with Kastakina, having beaten her twice in the junior ranks.

"We played already twice - it was 2013 in the juniors - so it was a very good experience and I'm happy we're both in the semifinals."

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