Sabine Lisicki was too much for defending champion Flavia Pennetta on Thursday, saving three match points in a three-set win over the Italian to book her Indian Wells semi-final berth.
Pennetta had hoped to repeat her surprise victory of last year, and managed to save one match point before running out of gas in the marathon quarter-final, won 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4) by the 24th seed from Germany.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Lisicki needed two hours and 40 minutes to fashion the victory, which set up a clash with another former champion, Serbian Jelena Jankovic.
“Everything happened tonight,” Pennetta said. “Match point for one, match point for the other one.
“Tennis is like this. I’m happy about the match, but of course I am upset, because when you are there, you want to win it.”
After dropping the first set, Pennetta saved a match point in the 10th game of the second. She went on to take the game three points later to even the set at 5-5.
Lisicki clinched the victory in dramatic fashion with her fifth ace of the match in the third-set tiebreaker. She celebrated by letting go of her racquet and dropping to her knees before going to the net for a long embrace with her equally-exhausted opponent.
Lisicki won 75 percent of her first-serve points and broke Pennetta four times in the first career meeting between the two.
“In matches like this both players played unbelievable points. It was fun to be part of a match like this,” said Lisicki, who owns the WTA record for the fastest serve — a 131 mph (210.82 kph) blast she hit last year in Stanford.
– Saved three match points –
She saved three match points in the 10th game of the final set after Pennetta had taken a 15-40 lead.
Lisicki fought off two match points to tie it up 40-40 then faced a third but was able to use her potent serve to get out of trouble.
“I just stepped up to the line and believed in my serve. And it worked,” Lisicki said.
Asked about facing Jankovic less than 24 hours after finishing her quarter-final, Lisicki said was too soon to think about her next match. “I am just happy that I won today.”
Jankovic, in contrast, barely broke a sweat in 45 minutes as she advanced when qualifier Lesia Tsurenko retired in the second set with an injury.
Jankovic, who won the Indian Wells title in 2010, was leading 6-1, 4-1 when Tsurenko packed it in with a right ankle injury
“It’s never nice to end a match that way,” said Jankovic, who celebrated her 30th birthday last month. “In the first set I was feeling pretty good out there. I was playing my game and waiting for my chances to execute.
“In the second set she started limping and I saw that she had some problem.”
Jankovic has always felt confident and comfortable playing in the California desert. In 2010, she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final but has only won one tournament since then, in 2013 in Bogota.
Jankovic, who is aiming for her 14th career title, beat rising star Belinda Bencic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the fourth round.
Tsurenko was the first qualifier to reach the quarter-finals since Gisela Dulko in 2004.
The second women’s semi-final on Friday features world number one Serena Williams facing third seeded Simona Halep.
Andy Murray set a record for Open Era wins by a British man with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Feliciano Lopez to reach the Indian Wells ATP Masters semi-finals on Thursday.
Fourth seed Murray booked a showdown with defending champion Novak Djokovic, who won his match in a walkover when Bernard Tomic withdrew from their scheduled quarter-final in the WTA and ATP hardcourt tournament.
Murray now has 497 match wins, surpassing Tim Henman for the most in the Open Era by a British player.
The 27-year-old Scot continued his domination over the Spanish lefthander Lopez, having won all 10 career matches between the two.
“His game style I think matches up quite well against mine,” said Murray, now just three wins shy of the 500-win milestone. “I don’t have as much trouble with the lefties.
“I was able to deal with his difficult spins today, but it was tough because he fought right to the end.”
Murray blasted four aces and won over 70 percent of his first and second serve points in the one hour, 32 minute match.
Lopez came into the match leading the tournament in aces with 46 in three matches. But the 12th seeded Spaniard managed just five against Murray on Thursday.
Murray ended his historic 2013 — where he became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years — when he had back surgery. The rehab took time and he was not the same player in 2014.
But Murray began to get back into form at the end of last year and is now eager to win his first Indian Wells title this week. His best finish is a runner-up in 2009, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the final.
He was also runner up at January’s Australian Openand lost in the quarter-finals this year in Dubai and Rotterdam.
World number one Djokovic advanced to the semis without lifting his racquet after a bad back and painful wisdom tooth forced Tomic to pull out.
Australia’s Tomic made his decision to withdraw several hours before his match was to open the evening session, allowing Djokovic a free pass.
Tomic hopes to get the tooth taken care of in Miami where another prestigious hardcourt tournament starts next week.
– Double whammy for Tomic –
“I’m on medication the last few days for the infected area, my wisdom tooth,” he said.
“I’m scared to run on the back, as well.
“Maybe if one of those things wasn’t there I could have played, but having two is not good.”
Tomic said his status for the Miami tournament is up in the air.
“I’d like to play it, but if there is an opportunity to get that wisdom tooth out before Miami, I probably won’t play in Miami. But it will come down to next few days before I decide,” he said.
Djokovic will get an extra day’s rest before he faces Murray. He leads their career contests 16-8.
But Murray has had some of his biggest career wins against Djokovic and is playing with plenty of confidence right now.
“Until last year our head to head was pretty close,” Murray said. “You know, last year was a tough year for me, especially the first six, seven months.
“He’s played extremely well here in the past. He will be totally fresh as well and ready for the semis.
“But I feel like I played well this week and if I can keep that level up and for a sustained period on Saturday, I’ll have a chance.” – Agence France-Presse