KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Bethanie Mattek-Sands upended No.2 seed and defending champion Hsieh Su-Wei on Friday to reach the semifinals of the BMW Malaysian Open - her first WTA semifinal in over two years.
Former Top 30 player Mattek-Sands had fallen on hard times as of late, plagued by hip, back and foot injuries in 2012 - during which time she spent a lot of time ranked outside the Top 200. Coming into this week at No.197, she was a wildcard entrant into the Kuala Lumpur draw. But she has taken advantage in winning her first WTA main draw matches since Linz last October.
The latest of those was her 75 62 quarterfinal triumph over Hsieh in which the American rallied from a 5-2 first set deficit.
"Hsieh is a super talented player," Mattek-Sands said. "She can come up with some crazy shots. Just when you think you're winning the point, she comes up with a winner. I was expecting that and I was ready for her to get some extra balls back. I think I won because I was playing aggressive. I used my serve really well today and tried to attack her return.
"Wins always help your confidence, but you have to get the confidence before you get the wins. Even though I had some losses this year, I feel I've been playing very good tennis. And I've come close in a few matches, like against Kuznetsova in Doha. You can't let the losses get to you too much because I know the player I can be. I can make semifinals like this. It happened this week, and my game is feeling good and I hope I can keep the momentum."
Interestingly enough, the last time Mattek-Sands played her semifinal foe Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, it was en route to the Hobart final in 2011, which is the last time she reached a final.
"I played her in doubles last week," Mattek-Sands said. "She plays pretty aggressive, hits the ball hard. She attacks the return, attacks the serve. It will be a good match, but you can expect me to play my game the same way tomorrow. Just a different opponent. Of course, I'll have to make some adjustments here and there, but I'll stay focused on what I have to do, and that's play aggressive."
The third-seeded Pavlyuchenkova was a 62 60 winner over Ashleigh Barty in just 58 minutes, not losing another game from 3-2 in the first set. The Russian is the only one of the four semifinalists with a WTA title to her credit, having collected three. However, after kicking off her year with a run to the final in Brisbane, she had lost three straight openers until this week.
"It was my best match so far at this tournament," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I'm really happy with my performance today. I knew for Ashleigh to get to the quarterfinals, you have to beat a lot of good players, so she was feeling confident. I was ready from the first point."
Morita failed to capitalize on two set points in the first set tie-break against qualifier Luksika Kumkhum but quickly seized the momentum in the second set and went on to a 67(7) 64 61 victory. The Japanese is now 10-2 here, having been a semifinalist in 2010, a quarterfinalist in 2011 and 2012 and at least a semifinalist this year.
"She was playing very well from the beginning, and I was too tight in the first set," Morita said. "In the second set, I tried to attack more and fight for every point, which helped me win the match."
The only semifinalist yet to drop a set, Pliskova fired 11 aces and only lost one more game from 5-5 in the first set of her 75 61 defeat of Patricia Mayr-Achleitner. Through to her first WTA semifinal, the Czech's last WTA main draw match win before this week was her opener here last year.