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Serena Edges Kvitova in Quarters; Reclaims No. 1 in Doha.

An emotional Serena Williams came back against Petra Kvitova to reach the Doha semifinals and with it a return trip to No. 1.

By Erik Gudris

Serena Williams (February 15th, 2013) -- Serena Williams may have kept a poker face during her interviews this week, but she definitely showed all her emotions on court during her roller coaster quarterfinal match at the Qatar Tennis Open.

With the WTA No. 1 ranking on the line for Williams, the x-factor proved to be her opponent Petra Kvitova who had never taken a set off of Williams in three previous meetings. Though Williams zoned in on Kvitova's serves in the opening game, it was Kvitova who played clean, powerful tennis to open up a 5-2 lead.

Williams, whose own serve was off its usual stellar mark, managed to hold during a protracted ninth game that had both women yelling out as they ripped winners past each other. But Kvitova took care of business in the next game as she closed out the set 6-3.

Better serving from Williams in the second set allowed her to stay even with Kvitova whose own service percentage dropped to 36%. A pair of double faults from Kvitova set up Williams to break for 4-3. From there, Williams won the next 12 out of 14 points to take the set 6-3 and force a decider.

The beginning of the third set took its toll on Williams emotionally as she dropped serve to give Kvitova an early 2-0 lead. That moment appeared to send Williams over the edge as she appeared on the verge of crying, perhaps sensing her chance at No. 1 was slipping away.

But Kvitova handed the break back on a double fault -- a pattern that would replay itself again after the Czech opened up a 4-1 lead. Though Kvitova's huge forehand paid dividends time and time again when she had an open court to put the ball in, her serve was what let her down. Another double fault  from Kvitova on break point allowed Williams to get back on serve for 4-3.

After holding serve to stay in the match at 4-5, Williams took command with some big forehands of her own to earn 0-40. Kvitova saved two break points, but Williams with tremendous all court defense claimed the third to go up 6-5.

Williams, serving for the match and No.1, soon found herself at triple match point. With an appropriate ace, her 14th of the day, Williams closed out the 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win and with it a return trip to No. 1 in the world when the WTA rankings are released on Monday.

An emotional Williams, who broke down several times during her on-court interview, admitted that she didn't think she would ever get back to the top of the WTA after her health scare from a few years ago.

"I never thought I would be here again," Williams said to "I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to get back to No.1. It has been a long road back and it's a great feeling. It has been a lot of hard work but I don't want to stop here."

At age 31, Williams will now become the oldest woman to ever hold the No. 1 ranking since Chris Evert back in 1985.

Azarenka, Sharapova, Radwanska Advance into Semis

It will be all top four semifinal in Doha this weekend as the the top four seeds advanced in quarterfinal play.

Top seed Victoria Azarenka had little trouble dismissing Italy's Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2. That sets her up for another semifinal meeting with No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska endured a second set challenge from Caroline Wozniacki before going on to win 6-2, 7-5.

No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova earlier in the day looked on the verge of humiliating No. 8 seed Sam Stosur after Sharapova jumped out to a 6-2, 3-0 lead in their match.

But Stosur fought back and was almost on the verge of leveling the second set at 4-3. Sharapova responded by hitting five aces as she fought off break points against the Aussie. Sharapova went on to close out the 6-2, 6-4 win and extend her record against Stosur to 12-2.

Sharapova will next face Williams in tomorrow's semifinals.
(Photo Credit: AP/Osama Faisal)


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