PATTAYA CITY, Thailand - Vera Zvonareva became the latest big-name casualty at the PTT Pattaya Open when injury forced the top seed to retire from her quarterfinal match with Sorana Cirstea on Friday.
The retirement, caused by a left hip injury, came with the match evenly poised at 62 46 22 and puts paid to Zvonareva's hopes of recapturing the title she won in 2009 and 2010. As in the previous two rounds, Zvonareva made a fast start, capitalizing on the string of errors coming off her opponent's racquet to take the opener after little more than half an hour.
However, at the start of the second, a more patient Cirstea took advantage of a couple of loose service games to wrestle back the initiative before leveling the match. The players traded early breaks in the third, before injury brought the match to an abrupt conclusion.
"I rushed too much in the first set. Then I tried to be more patient and made her play more, while my serves and returns were better in the second set," Cirstea said. "I didn't notice that she was injured and was surprised she retired, but I hope she will recover soon."
"It started bothering me already in the beginning of the first set, and it was getting worse and worse," said Zvonareva of her injury. "I was doing my best, but it was too tough for me to push off from that leg and it was very difficult to focus on the game. I did everything I could but just couldn't continue anymore."
Meeting Cirstea in the semifinals is No.4 seed Maria Kirilenko. After the drama served up in Kirilenko's opening two matches at the Dusit Thani Hotel - she was two points away from losing to Anastasia Rodionova and saved a match point against Casey Dellacqua - her quarterfinal win over Tamarine Tanasugarn was relatively straightforward. Nevertheless, the Russian still managed to thrill and disappoint the Thai crowd in equal measure, rallying from 5-3 down in the first set to defeat the home favorite, 76(2) 61.
In the other semifinal, defending champion and No.3 seed Daniela Hantuchova will meet the tournament's surprise package, Hsieh Su-Wei. Hantuchova was made to work hard for her place in the last four, toiling away for nearly two hours on a humid evening before finally seeing off an in-form Vania King, 76(7) 64.
Hsieh, who came through two rounds of qualifying to make the main draw, has been in tremendous form this week and, like Hantuchova, is yet to drop a set. Her latest victim was Sania Mirza, who she defeated 75 63 to reach just her second WTA semifinal and first since 2001.
"The weather here is quite hot and humid. I'm used to this and it suits my game," Hsieh said. "I've practiced every day since the end of the Australian Open and I think it is starting to show in my tennis this week."