ISTANBUL, Turkey - It was a critical day in Istanbul on Thursday, as two players - and nearly three - secured their spots in the semifinals of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, the WTA's $4.9-million year-ender.
With Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova already reaching the semifinals after commanding straight set victories earlier in the day, the "nearly three" refers to Vera Zvonareva, who was three times just a point away from becoming the third to book her spot but was just beaten by Agnieszka Radwanska in the last match of the day, putting the scenarios on hold.
Zvonareva wouldn't have just qualified for the semifinals with a victory over Radwanska, she would have snapped a three-match losing streak against her, having lost to her at Carlsbad, Toronto and Tokyo in the last few months - all in straight sets, too. This one would be much different.
It took just 35 minutes for the No.6-seeded Zvonareva to win the first set, 6-1; Radwanska, the No.8 seed, retaliated with a 6-2 second set. An aggressive Zvonareva regrouped and got to double match point at 5-3, 40-15 in the third set but missed down-the-lines on both of those, then lost an extended exchange on her third match point in the same game. She would eventually lose to Radwanska for a fourth straight time, 16 62 75.
"This is the Championships, it doesn't matter if it's 5-0 or 0-5. I just kept fighting until the end, every shot and every point," Radwanska said in her on-court interview. "On the third match point I just told myself to keep getting the ball back to the other side, that's it! It's always great to win matches like this, especially against a player like Vera, who is very consistent and always tough to beat. I'm so happy."
"I wasn't consistent enough to beat her today. 'Almost' doesn't count," Zvonareva said. "I think it was a good match overall though. I played the way I wanted to play. I just wasn't consistent. It was an equal game. There were no turning points. I just didn't take the opportunities I had."
Kvitova has already qualified from the Red Group. Both Zvonareva and Radwanska could be the group's second qualifier - if Radwanska wins just a set against Kvitova on Friday, Radwanska qualifies; if Radwanska loses to Kvitova in straight sets on Friday, Zvonareva qualifies.
"Petra is playing really well the last few weeks and she has shown some good tennis here as well," Radwanska said. "For sure it's going to be very tough, but I'm going to do my best tomorrow. I'm gonna fight like hell."
Kvitova has beaten Radwanska in both of their previous meetings.
Azarenka has already qualified from the White Group. The second qualifier will be either Li Na or Sam Stosur - they play each other on Friday and the winner of that will move through to the semifinals.
Stosur has beaten Li in all five of their previous meetings.
In addition to the Kvitova-Radwanska and Li-Stosur matches on Friday, Azarenka will play first alternate Marion Bartoli, who subbed in for the last round robin match when Maria Sharapova withdrew on Wednesday.