STUTTGART, Germany - Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova won Friday night fights in Stuttgart, and along with Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska's wins from earlier in the day, that means the Top 4 players in the world have all made the semifinals of the event, an all-star achievement that hasn't happened at any WTA event since July 2009 at Wimbledon.
Kicking off the night session on Friday was No.2 seed Maria Sharapova's battle with No.5 seed Sam Stosur. Though Sharapova had won nine of their 10 previous meetings, Stosur's win did come in their most recent meeting, and the World No.5 had won six of her last eight matches against Top 2 players.
After winning the first set Stosur looked like she had the match put away in the second set, breaking for 5-3 and getting to match point on a Sharapova double fault; but Sharapova dug herself out of that hole, eventually dug out that second set, got the only break of the third set in the 11th game, then promptly served it out at 15. Final score: 67(5) 76(5) 75. Final time: three hours, one minute.
"The match is only over after the last point and when you shake hands at the net," Sharapova said. "Up until that point, you always have to battle hard. It's a one-on-one situation on the court. That's the way I play the game."
In 36 service games there were 33 holds of serve and only three breaks.
"Sam has a great serve. She was serving as well against me today as she ever has," Sharapova said. "The ball was bouncing quite high but in the second set I got a better read of it. The difference was a couple points here and there.
"I'm really happy to get through a quality clay courter like Sam."
"I think it was a very, very good match - we both played very well," Stosur said afterwards. "Towards the end of the third set she started returning very well and putting me under more and more pressure, and then she got that one break and served very well in the last game, which was the cherry on top for her.
"I was pleased with my own serve and return though, too. I served some good percentages and did very well until that last service game that I lost."
Stosur had won two Fed Cup matches on this court over the weekend, and leaves Stuttgart with many more positives than disappointments. "It's been a great time here, obviously the Fed Cup first then three very good matches here," she said. "It sucks losing, but when you play as well as I did tonight, you can't be too hard on yourself. It's disappointing but I know I gave it everything."
In the second night match No.3 seed Petra Kvitova beat Angelique Kerber, 64 64, running her indoor winning streak to 27 matches in a row and now winning 14 of her last 15 quarterfinal matches on the WTA (her only loss in that stretch coming in the 2011 Australian Open quarters to Vera Zvonareva).
"It was important to serve and return well in this match because she plays very well from the baseline," Kvitova said of Kerber. "I'm looking forward for the semifinals here now - it's the first time I'm playing this tournament and to be in the semifinals is really good. It will be a good match with Sharapova."
"Petra played very well today," Kerber said. "I had some chances in the first set but didn't take them, and she served better, which was the difference."
Azarenka, Sharapova, Kvitova and Radwanska are ranked No.1 through No.4 - it is the first time the Top 4 players in the world are all in the semifinals of a WTA event since Wimbledon in 2009, when Dinara Safina, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Elena Dementieva made up the final four (they were No.1 through No.4 at the time). The Williamses made the final, Serena winning.
"On the men's side it's normal to have the Top 4 in the semis," Kvitova said. "It's great for the tournament, the sponsors and the people. It has been a long time since the last time, but hopefully it will happen in more tournaments soon."