PARIS, France - Quarterfinal Friday at the Open GDF SUEZ was a cracker, with a Houdini-like win and a career-best win among the storylines as eight WTA stars went to war to reach the final four of the Premier tournament.
No.9 seed Angelique Kerber was the one who got her career-best win, pulling off a 64 64 upset of No.3-ranked, No.1-seeded Maria Sharapova. Having won just three games against her just a few weeks ago at the Australian Open, Kerber couldn't be put away this time, rallying from 4-2 down to win the first set and 3-1 down to win the second set against the Russian megastar.
"I knew before the match I had nothing to lose. It's amazing, my first Top 5 win," said Kerber, who actually scored her first Top 10 win. "My coach was telling me, if I want to win this match, I need to play my best tennis. So from the first point I really tried to do that. And I'm very happy I beat her and now I'm in the semis.
"In Australia it was my first match against Maria, and I think I was a little bit shocked to play against her, because she's such a great player."
"It was a tough day today. My opponent played really well," Sharapova said. "When I had opportunities I didn't take them - I was up in both sets, had the breaks, but she did extremely well in those moments, much better than I did.
"Angelique is someone who has been playing really good tennis in the last six months, and had a great result at the US Open. She's really starting to break through. And being a lefty gives her a bit of an edge, as there aren't too many - she has a great game for it, but she's also someone who's very aggressive, stays low, is very strong and runs well. She has many pluses in her game."
The Houdini-like win came from No.2 seed Marion Bartoli at night. After losing the first set, Bartoli rallied from 4-1 down in the second set and 5-2 down in the third to edge No.7 seed Roberta Vinci in a third set tie-break, 46 64 76(2).
"I don't know how I got out of the match," Bartoli said. "Roberta is a great player and for much of the match neutralized my serve and returned extremely well. I had to dig deep within myself. But I kept the right attitude and didn't give up.
"The support from the crowd helped me win today."
Next up for Bartoli will be unseeded Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova, who scored her own comeback victory against No.6 seed Julia Goerges, losing the first set and scraping through a tight second set before cruising to a 36 75 61 victory. The 29-year-old is now through to her first Premier-level semifinal.
Later, Yanina Wickmayer got revenge for a recent loss in the Hobart final, getting past Mona Barthel, 64 67(3) 63. After winning the first set Wickmayer fell behind 5-0 in the second set - she eventually lost it in a tie-break but in catching up she seemed to grab a hold of the momentum again, racing out to a 4-1 third set lead and not looking back to set up a semifinal with Kerber.
Kerber is in her first Premier semi while Wickmayer is in her second, doing it at Indian Wells last year (falling to Bartoli). It should be noted both have been to Grand Slam semifinals, Kerber at the 2011 US Open (falling to Sam Stosur) and Wickmayer at the 2009 US Open (falling to Caroline Wozniacki).