ISTANBUL, Turkey - A week ago they were playing just to get into the field, and now they've beaten the No.1 team in the world. Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova rallied from a first set blowout to beat Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the semifinals of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012, and will play Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the final.
It has been seven days since Kirilenko and Petrova played Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears in the semifinals of Moscow, the winner of which would be the fourth and final team into the Istanbul field. They won that one, but they drew the No.1 seeds in the first round at the WTA finale - Errani and Vinci, who had won eight WTA doubles titles this year, including the French and US Opens.
They had lost their last four matches against them too, and after dropping the first set, 6-1, it seemed like that head-to-head had too much momentum. But Kirilenko and Petrova battled back with their very aggressive style, taking the second set and the ensuing match tie-break for a 16 63 104 triumph.
Kirilenko and Petrova will be seeking their fourth WTA doubles title as a team, having won Cincinnati in 2008, Moscow in 2009 and Miami this year - all of those were on hardcourts. They are 3-3 overall in WTA doubles finals.
Earlier in the day, No.2 seeds Hlavackova and Hradecka fought off four set points in the first set - three down 5-4, one more down 6-5 in the tie-break - to beat defending champions Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, 76(6) 61.
"We started the tie-break really well, and then I made two unforced errors on my serve, which I was really mad about," Hlavackova said. "At 5-6, I was really down. I thought if we lost that point and lose the set, it might have brought us even more down, though we would have fought to come back anyway.
"But it's a close match with no ads and a super tie-break in the end, so you have to keep your focus the whole time. So even when we were up 5-1 in the second set, we had to really keep playing well and close it out."
Hlavackova and Hradecka will be seeking their 10th WTA doubles title as a team, having won Prague and Bad Gastein in 2008, Bad Gastein again in 2009, Brisbane in 2010, the French Open in 2011 and four more this year, at Auckland, Memphis, Cincinnati and Luxembourg. They are 9-5 in finals.
Of the four players in the doubles final, only Petrova has played here before, in either singles or doubles - she played singles three times (2005, 2006, 2008) and doubles once (2004 - winning it with Meghann Shaughnessy).
The final will be only the second meeting between Hlavackova and Hradecka and Kirilenko and Petrova, the Russians winning a 46 75 75 nail-biter in the semifinals of this year's French Open (the Czechs were up 64 41 in that one).
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