World No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska moved within a win of becoming the first Pan Pacific Open champion to defend the title in eight years after defeating Angelique Kerber in the semifinals Friday.
Radwanska cruised past fifth seed Kerber in 59 minutes, winning 6-1, 6-1. The last player to win the title back to back was Lindsay Davenport in 2003-2004.
In Saturday’s final, Radwanska will face surprising Russian veteran Nadia Petrova who beat an injured Samantha Stosur, last season’s U.S. Open champion, 6-4, 6-2.
“There were a lot of tight games especially in the end,” Radwanska said of her match with Kerber, who reached the last four by default after world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka pulled out.
“She’s a big fighter, she never gives up. I think I played a good match today. Everything was working today and I’m happy about that.”
Radwanska, a part-time student back in her native Poland, and the 30-year-old Petrova last played each other in 2008, when they met four times with Radwanska winning on three of those occasions.
“She’s been playing great tennis this week and played a lot of good tight matches,” the 23-year-old Radwanska said of Petrova. “For sure it won’t be easy, but I’m just very happy I could reach the final again and will do everything to win the title.”
Kerber tried to make a contest out of the match, taking the first game of the second set. But Radwanska — who did not double fault once whereas Kerber had seven — won the next six games to underline her domination.
In the first semifinal at Ariake Tennis Forest Park, Stosur lacked the flair she showed a night earlier when she eliminated Petrova’s compatriot Maria Sharapova, going down 6-4, 6-2 to the 17th seed.
Petrova defeated No. 6 Sara Errani in the quarterfinals in three sets despite a bad back, and did not slow down against the ninth-ranked Stosur.
Petrova landed nine aces compared to none by Stosur, who did not convert a single break point.
Petrova reached the Pan Pacific Open final for her first time, and her second final of the season following the UNICEF Open she won in the Netherlands, in June.
“Sam is a tough opponent to play,” she said. “She has a strong forehand and likes to dominate the game. With her you have to be alert, you have to play your best and I think I accomplished that today.”
Petrova needed treatment on her lower back during her victory over Errani but said it was not an issue against Stosur.
“My back is doing well, I’m very pleased,” Petrova said. “Overall at this stage, me and Agnieszka are beaten up already but this is the final. This is the last match of the tournament. You have to give it your best and everything you have left.”
Stosur, on the other hand, did have physical issues against Petrova as she suffered an abdominal injury early in the match.
“I did something to myself in the third game of the match and I kind of kept going thinking it would go away but it didn’t seem to,” Stosur said. “I got some treatment and got it taped up and I was able to keep playing but I guess it’s not the ideal situation.”