BEIJING: French Open and Wimbledon champions Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova will battle for the China Open title after they both powered through their semifinals matches on Saturday.
Meanwhile, world No.1 Novak Djokovic continued his brilliant 100 percent record in Beijing, overpowering Andy Murray to set up a men’s finals match against Tomas Berdych.
Kvitova remains on course for a second consecutive women’s title in China after she defeated Samantha Stosur 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in her match.
The world number three appears to have taken to Beijing the form she showed winning the Wuhan Open on Saturday.
But the Czech player’s victory came after she survived a scare against Stosur, with the Australian taking the second set as she broke serve in the final game.
The 2011 US Open winner and former world No.4 appeared to be capitalizing on a lack of rhythm in Kvitova’s play after the game was halted because of rain, meaning the court had to be dried and the roof closed.
But the third seed in Beijing fought back in the third set, saving three break points in the second game before breaking in the fifth and seventh to make her first finals in Beijing.
“You know, when we had the 30 minute break, it’s difficult,” Kvitova said.
“I won the first set and I was playing very good. Then they stopped me.”
Ruthless serving from Djokovic
Sharapova stormed through the first set in her match with Ana Ivanovic, before the Serbian world No.9 staged a brave fightback which culminated in a dramatic finals game.
The pair traded breaks in the first two games of the second set, before Ivanovic lost serve again, giving Sharapova a 5-4 advantage as she served for the match.
Both players were then locked in a tussle, which saw four break points for Ivanovic and an equal number of match points for Sharapova.
But the Russian fourth seed in Beijing came through the battle of nerves and sealed a 6-0, 6-4 victory in just under 90 minutes.
Ivanovic said she did not play at her usual standard during the game.
“It was not about the last challenge. It was just very tough match for me today. I felt really flat on the court,” she said.
“I was trying to come back in that second set. That point was very important. But still I had to do lot of work. I didn’t feel at my best today.”
Both Sharapova and Kvitova will be hoping to clinch their fourth title of the year in Beijing. Sharapova has won the last four meetings between the pair.
In the men’s competition, it was another ruthless serving display from Djokovic, the top seed in Beijing, who overcame a brief fightback from Murray midway through the second set to claim a 6-3, 6-4 win.
Djokovic broke serve in the eighth game, taking advantage of some risky groundstrokes by Murray, to take the opening set.
The British sixth seed appeared to lose concentration early in the second set, dropping his serve in the first game and losing the next in a spell during which he failed to score a point.
But Murray took the upper hand thereafter, forcing two break points from his opponent in the fourth game, before finally clinching a deserved break at his next attempt.
The world number 11 was having his best moments of the match, taking points from Djokovic at the net during an attractive spell of tennis from both players.
However, Djokovic stepped up a gear when Murray pulled in front at 4-3, winning the next three games and allowing his opponent to take just one point.
“I felt like I could swing through the ball. I could dictate the play from the baseline better than I did in the previous games in the second set,” Djokovic said, explaining how he closed in on victory.
The Serb is bidding for his fifth title in Beijing, a tournament he has won every year since 2009—apart from 2011 when he did not take part.
He will need to beat third seed Berdych—who won in that year—after the world number six Czech eased past Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1.