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Dubai Tennis: Venus storms into last four

Venus Williams celebrates her victory over Flavia Pennetta on Thursday. (SUPPLIED)

By Staff

Venus Williams fought off a strong late challenge from qualifier Flavia Pennetta on Thursday to win 6-3 7-5 and reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

She will now face 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki, who overwhelmed Sorana Cirstea 6-1 6-2 in just 62 minutes.

Two-time former champion Williams took the opening set after breaking to lead 5-3, serving out the set to love and finishing with an ace.

She then held the upper hand in the second set and led 4-2, but from then on she struggled to close out the match.

Williams had to fight off two break points to hold for 5-3 before the battle moved on to a dramatic conclusion.

After Pennetta held for 5-4 and in a nail-biting finish, Williams fell behind 0-40, recovered to hold a match point, but then dropped her serve.

Despite that disappointment she managed to break Pennetta’s serve again to lead 6-5, but again fell behind 0-40 before claiming the next five points and the match.

“She just keeps fighting. She stays relevant,” said Williams. “That's what she does really well. She stays in the point. I have to give her credit for that. I think I could have maybe made a couple more shots, but it's not always easy against someone who competes as well as her.”

Wozniacki took charge against Cirstea right from the start and was never troubled as she swept to a comfortable victory.

“That was good. That was really pleasing, and I always know that Sorana can be a tricky opponent,” said Wozniacki.

“It was important for me not to let her back in the game, and I felt like I served well and I put the pressure on her and played the way I wanted to play today.”

Cirstea admitted that she had no chance against an opponent who was superior on the day.

“All credit to Caroline,” she said. “She played great today. I think she played one of the best matches I have ever played against her. Very solid. Quite aggressive from the start. She should definitely deserve this win. I didn't really get a chance to get fully into the match.”

Despite her disappointment, Cirstea is already looking forward to her return in 2015.

“I always come and am happy every single time I come here, because they treat the players so nicely,” she said. “Everyone is so friendly. They try to accommodate us as best as possible. It's just so easy for us, the hotel, it's on-site. It makes a huge difference.

“I always say you can see how well the tournament is doing by looking at the draw, and this I think it's one of the strongest draws out of the whole year. So it's definitely a tournament that knows how to treat their players.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and operated by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.