Serena Williams became the first contender to make it to the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association (WTA) Championships in Doha on Thursday.
The 2009 Wimbledon champion downed Russian Elena Dementieva in straight sets 6–2, 6–4. It was Serena's third win in as many days in the Maroon Group of the round-robin phase of the tournament.
Dementieva led 2–1 early in the first set, but Serena found her swing and reeled off seven straight games to take full control of the match against the player she has lost to already three times this year.
Serena won the tournament in 2001 when it was held in a normal knockout draw format, but has been unable to pull through the round-robin phase for the past two years.
"It feels good to be through because I've never really done well in this round-robin format," Serena said after the match.
"I’m kind of used to the elimination thing: If you lose, you’re out. But I was just trying to do better than I did last year and compete in all my matches, which sometimes is very hard.
"Tomorrow I'm going to sleep all day because I've played every day so far here and I'm really tired."
The tournament’s defending champion, Venus Williams, managed to stay alive with a tough win against Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6–2, 6–7, 6–4 on Thursday after losing to Serena and Dementieva in previous matches.
Venus can now only bide her time to see if she’ll move on to the semis, needing Kuznetsova to beat Dementieva on Friday to have a chance.
Serena has now regained her No. 1 ranking from Russian Dinara Safina, who pulled out of the tournament on Wednesday with a back injury.
Safina was replaced by compatriot Vera Zvonareva, who was ousted by Danish teenage sensation Caroline Wozniacki and then followed in Safina’s shoes by pulling out of the tournament with an ankle injury.
Wozniacki showed tremendous grit by suffering through heavy cramps in her left thigh to win 6–0, 6–7, 6–4.
"I have absolutely no idea how I pulled it through, but I’m very happy about it," Wozniacki said.
The 19-year-old won the hearts of tennis fans around the world with her amazing run to the U.S. Open final this year where she finally lost to come-back mom Kim Clijsters.
The $4.55 million WTA Championship is the sport’s last big event of the year before preparation begins for the Australian Open in January—the season’s first grand slam.