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Not only was Kuznetsova 6-0 all-time against Zheng prior to their semifinal encounter, but the third-seeded Russian had dropped a tournament-low 14 games through three rounds. It appeared her dominance would continue early on, as she jumped out to a 5-0 first set lead and was up 3-2 on serve in the second. "I didn't want to finish like this," Zheng said about her slow start.
Sure enough, Zheng caught fire, winning four straight games to take the second set and coasting to a 5-1 lead in the third en route to victory.
"My opponent played a great match, the best match I've seen her play," Kuznetsova said. "I'm disappointed; I had bigger expectations this week, not with my results, but with my game. But still, it's a very good start to the season."
Pennetta's semifinal was a much more one-sided affair, as she was a 61 62 winner in just under an hour against Angelique Kerber, exacting a measure of revenge for her three-set loss to the German at last year's US Open.
"I thought a lot about the US Open quarterfinal match," said the fourth-seeded Pennetta, who has yet to drop a set this week. "Even though everything was coming into my mind before the match, I was just trying to focus on today's match and play my best. And I think my tennis was perfect today."
Pennetta has a 3-2 edge in her series with Zheng. She is looking for her 10th career title and first since Marbella in 2010, while Zheng is aiming for her fourth title and first since Stockholm in 2006.
The doubles semifinals featured two upsets, as Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka eliminated No.1 seeds and defending champs Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, and Julia Goerges and Pennetta fended off two match points in edging No.2 seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, 26 76(2) 119.