OEIRAS, Portugal - It was one of the most dramatic WTA finals of 2012 and now its sequel will take place at the same event in 2013 - Kaia Kanepi and Carla Suárez Navarro raced past their quarterfinal opponents in straight sets to set up a tantalizing semifinal clash at the Portugal Open in Oeiras.
The No.4-seeded Suárez Navarro was the first to move ahead, rolling through the first set then toughing out a tougher 56-minute second set to get past Puerto Rican lucky loser Monica Puig, 62 64.
"Today was a difficult match," Suárez Navarro said. "Monica is a good player - she was playing very well yesterday and the day before. For me the first set was really good, but I wasn't aggressive enough in the second set - I really have to be more aggressive moving forward into the next matches."
The next match was an all-unseeded battle between Kanepi and Ayumi Morita. Morita started strong, going up 3-1 early on, but Kanepi found her range and eventually moved through smoothly, 64 63.
"I was pretty happy with the way I played today," Kanepi said. "It was windy but I stayed aggressive and served well - I felt very comfortable serving. And I liked my movement, too. My Achilles injury isn't really affecting my movement - it doesn't bother me in practice or matches, maybe just after some matches, but then I ice it a lot. It's already better than it was last week in Morocco, actually.
"I think my movement is actually better than before the injury. Today was a good win."
Kanepi leads Suárez Navarro in their head-to-head series, 2-1, and their last meeting came right here in the final last year with Kanepi winning, but just barely - Suárez Navarro led 63 53, had two match points in the tie-break and even led 4-2 in the third set before ultimately falling, 36 76(6) 64.
"I've won a few matches in my career from match points down but I've never won a final like this," Kanepi said after that final a year ago. "I'll remember this final in a good way for a long time."
"I was a point away but Kaia played really well and credit to her for the way she recovered," Suárez Navarro said that day. "It was a good week for me. I'm motivated to keep working and getting better."
The loss was particularly heartbreaking for Suárez Navarro, as it was the closest she has gotten to winning her first WTA title - she is currently 0-4 in WTA finals. But there is some light on the horizon - the Spaniard, the Spanish No.1, in fact, absolutely loves playing this tournament in Oeiras.
"I'm so happy to be here," she said. "The people, the club and the hotel make me feel so happy to be here. It really helps me play well. I've been playing well all week and I hope to keep doing that.
"I'm happy to be in the semifinals, but I will go in with my 100% to make the final."
"I know how she plays and it's going to be a tough match for sure," Kanepi said. "I'm defending my title and will try my best - I'll leave everything I have to defend, and we'll see what happens."