DOHA, Qatar - They recently broke through in the rankings and now they're in dazzling form in Doha. Agnieszka Radwanska and Marion Bartoli won at the Qatar Total Open on Friday, making it an all-Top 10 semifinal line-up.
Bartoli, who spent her 38th and 39th career weeks at No.9 during the two weeks of the Australian Open but afterwards finally broke the barrier and rose to No.7, was the first of the two to win. Seeded No.5 in Doha, she ended the the surprise run of Lucie Safarova, 75 46 61. They spent nearly two hours splitting the first two sets but Bartoli shifted gears for the third, needing just 26 more minutes.
"It was a really hard battle," Bartoli said. "I think we both used a lot of energy in the first and second sets, so the turning point for me was to stay strong early in the third set. Once I got the early break the momentum started to roll my way."
Safarova had taken out Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova earlier in the week. "Marion was playing very fast and deep," Safarova said. "I fell behind in the beginning of the third set and it was tough to get back because she was playing very well. But it was a good tournament for me. I had good wins against Caroline and Svetlana. But now I need a few days of rest!"
Like Bartoli, Radwanska was recently stuck at a career-high ranking, in her case No.8 - she spent her 28th and 29th career weeks there in Melbourne. But she finally surpassed it afterwards, rising to No.6 - the No.4 seed in Doha, she needed just 61 minutes to roll past the young Christina McHale, 61 61.
"A lot of the games were very tight, actually," Radwanska said. "I knew I had to be ready today because Christina has been playing very well this week."
Friday's results set up a tantalizing Saturday card in the Qatari capital, with Stosur and Bartoli squaring off in the first semifinal (Bartoli leads their head-to-head series, 3-2, and won both of last year's meetings routinely).
"Sam and I played twice last year and I had two very good wins, so the key will be my recovery - we'll see how my body is coping after this difficult match today," Bartoli said. "Overall I've been playing very good tennis in Paris last week and Doha this week. I think it's going to be a great match."
The second semifinal sees Azarenka take on Radwanska (Azarenka leads the head-to-head, 7-3, but their last four meetings have all gone three sets).
"I have had so many tough matches with Agnieszka," Azarenka said. "We played three sets I think the last three matches. She's a very difficult one to play with. We'll see how it goes. I'm excited to play against her again."