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Wozniacki, del Potro ease into China Open final
By sportswriters Spencer Musick and Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, Oct. 6 -- The semifinals of the ongoing China Open saw the last remaining home favorite crashing out and mixed results for the other top seeds remaining in the draw.
Chinese No. 1 Wang Qiang bid her home tournament goodbye here on Saturday in a straight-set loss to world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki: 6-1, 6-3.
Wang, who had been helped by a slew of unforced errors from her opponent in the quarterfinal against Arnya Sabalenka, found herself coughing them out at an even more alarming pace today.
Wang's shooting down the line from the backhand side kept going a bit too deep, with her shots hitting just the wrong side of the baseline, giving Wozniacki the easy holds early on that allowed her to establish a commanding lead and run away with the first set.
Wang committed 21 unforced errors (including 15 in the opening five games alone) to only as many winners on the way to dropping the first.
Wang showed a few glimmers of hope in the second, but overall things were not much better. Despite breaking the Dane once, Wang never saved any of her own break points and committed twenty more unforced errors on her way out the door.
Wozniacki will play Anastasija Sevastova in the final, after the Latvian beat an out-of-sorts Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-4 earlier today to claim a place in her first career Premier final.
Having begun very poorly in her quarterfinal against China's Zhang Shuai, Osaka made a slightly better start this time, as both players traded blows in an even contest.
But things started to unravel for the Japanese as she failed to convert two break points at 3-2 up. This seemed to affect her next game, as Sevastova broke Osaka's serve to take the initiative in the set.
Osaka suffered from inconsistency, with 19 unforced errors in the first set to just seven from Sevastova. The big-serving Latvian also delivered six aces on her way to closing out the set in 47 minutes.
Osaka seemed to be struggling to find her range, notably firing wide on Sevastova's game point at 2-2 to hand the Latvian her first break of the set.
The Japanese did not look confident on court, and her inconsistent shotmaking may have been down to a niggling injury, as she received lengthy treatment on her lower back during the changeover at 4-3 down. By contrast, Sevastova appeared comfortable and eager to continue with proceedings.
"[My back] started getting worse towards the end of the first set, but it's been bothering me since the beginning of the tournament," said Osaka after the match. "I'm happy I was able to get this far."
At first it appeared as if Osaka's treatment had done her good, as the Japanese rallied to win her first break point of the set to tie the scores at 4-4.
But Sevastova immediately broke back in the following game, and a missed forehand return from Osaka at match point sealed the victory for the Latvian in one hour 31 minutes.
In women's doubles, Xu Yifan ensured that there would be some Chinese representation in Sunday's finals, after she and teammate Gabriela Dabrowski defeated Lucie Hradecka and Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2.
Xu/Dabrowski didn't get off to the best of starts, losing their first service game as Hradecka/Makarova took a 2-0 lead. But they bounced back from those inauspicious beginnings to break serve twice and take the next five games to close out the first set 6-3 in just over half an hour.
It was a similar story in the second set, as Xu/Dabrowski twice broke Hradecka/Makarova and held their nerve on their return games to seal their win with minimal fuss.
Xu/Dabrowski will face Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova in the final, after the Czech duo defeated Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs 6-0, 7-5.
After having lost to Mertens/Schuurs in the final of last week's Wuhan Open, Sestini Hlavackova/Strycova were out for revenge, and blew into the match like a full force gale, dishing out a 6-0 whitewash in just 23 minutes.
The second set was a much closer contest after Mertens/Schuurs finally found their range, but the Czech duo held firm to see out the set and book their place in the final.
In men's singles, world No. 16 Kyle Edmund went down to No. 34 Nikoloz Basilashvili, a player who has earned his stripes as a top-seed slayer here in Beijing after taking out world No. 2 Alexander Zevrev.
Basilashvilli showed extremely competent shooting both down the line and cross court right out of the gate. His cross-court forehand was particularly able to find its mark on return in this match.
Both players broke serve out of the gate, but then went on to hold to 6-all and force a tiebreak.
In the breaker, Basilashvilli's full use of the court won out over Edmund's baseline push. He won it 8-6.
The second set saw the Georgian storm to a three-game lead at 5-2.
Basilashvilli then almost sealed the deal at break point, but a painful unforced error at the net saw Edmund take it back to deuce with a forehand slice and go on to hold his serve.
With Basilashvilli serving for the match at 5-3, several unforced errors help Edmund break his serve and stay in the game.
But Edmund's final service game saw him send a backhand down the line miles off its mark, handing Basilashvilli the 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory in one hour, 41 minutes.
Basilashvili will play No. 1 seed Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday's final, after his semifinal opponent Fabio Fognini withdrew. Earlier in the day, the Italian had announced his withdrawal from next week's Shanghai Masters due to an ankle injury. Fognini had clearly still hoped to play his semifinal here in Beijing, though his injury ultimately proved too severe to continue.
The final day of action here at the China National Tennis Center gets underway at noon Beijing time tomorrow.