Kvitova pummels Wozniacki to reach Dubai final
DUBAI (Reuters) - Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova pummeled Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Dubai Championships on Friday, while Sara Errani defeated doubles partner Roberta Vinci 6-3 6-3 in an all-Italian showdown.
Kvitova, 22, has yet to drop a set in Dubai, the world No.8 returning to form after failing to win more than two matches at any other tournament this year.
The left-hander will also go into Saturday's final as favorite, having won all three previous matches against Errani.
Against former world number one Wozniacki, Kvitova was comfortable in the opening set, being taken to deuce only once and saving the two break points she faced.
Wozniacki found it harder going, losing the opening game as Kvitova dispatched venomous ground strokes from the baseline that the stooping Dane failed to control.
This allowed the Czech to put away a succession of volleyed winners as she raced to the net.
"She was trying to ... put the balls back - I am the person who is playing aggressively and going for the winners," Kvitova told reporters. "I can play quite fast from the forehand, it's my big stroke."
Receiving at 5-3 ahead, Kvitova left her opponent flat-footed with the power and depth of her return and the Dane could not find enough elevation on her backhand reply.
That set up Kvitova - seeking a 10th tour singles title - to take the first set, slugging a forehand winner into the corner as Wozniacki moved the other way.
The Dane ended 2010 and 2011 as the top-ranked women's player, but endured a tough 2012, slipping down the standings as she won just two singles titles and failed to make much impression at the grand slams.
The 2009 U.S. Open finalist, girlfriend of golfer Rory McIlroy, seems more determined this year and in earlier rounds in Dubai she spoke of enjoying her tennis more.
She dropped five games over the first two rounds and came from a set down to beat Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals.
But Kvitova proved too much for her, the Czech winning a third straight match between the pair.
Wozniacki, now world No.10, came out fighting in the second set, breaking for the first time for a 3-2 lead after her fierce return dragged the Czech wide so she could land a winner on the opposite flank.
But Kvitova broke immediately and then for a fourth time to seal the match as the Dane scuffed a backhand volley wide.
"It was very difficult, especially in the first set," said Wozniacki. "I didn't feel like I had many chances. She went for every shot and hit it deep. I came under pressure straightaway."
She was nevertheless upbeat about her showing in Dubai, her first semi-final appearance since Sofia in October.
"I have played some good tennis - it's improving all the time," Wozniacki added.
The other semi-final was a clash between the world's top-ranked doubles pairing, with Errani and Vinci having won three of the past four grand slams.
They also practice together and that made for a strange encounter, with neither player celebrating winning key points.
"It was very tough playing against a friend, sometimes it happens and you just have to try to play normally," Errani said in a courtside interview.
The world number seven now has a 5-2 winning record against Vinci, coming out on top in their last five meetings including in last year's U.S. Open quarter-finals.
Both players are petite by tennis standards and the match was more about finesse than power as they hugged the baseline.
When Vinci did try to inject more power into her shots, she was often found wanting.
The players traded breaks at the start of the second set and overall eight of the first 11 games went against serve.
Errani, again playing with a heavily strapped left thigh, went 4-1 up in the second and she eventually saw out the match.
(Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Pritha Sarkar)