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Doubles trouble for Safarova after singles setback

Lucie Safarova prepares to hit a backhand
by Michael Beattie
Thursday 3 July 2014

It was expecting a lot of Lucie Safarova to bounce back from her singles semi-final loss with a win in the ladies’ doubles quarter-finals. Beaten by Petra Kvitova on Centre Court, the Czech fell to her second defeat of the day, alongside Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, to Jie Zheng and Andrea Hlavakova 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

The Czech-Russian duo had their chances in the first set, failing to convert three break points to allow Zheng and Hlavakova to surge clear. But birthday girl Pavlyuchenkova helped to lift Safarova’s spirits in the second set to level the match after 72 minutes. With the shadows lengthening on Court 12, however, Safarova’s emotional day began to catch up with her as she faced a barrage of volleys. A solitary break was enough to secure the No.9 seeds a place in the semi-finals.

Up next for Zheng and Hlavakova are No.2 seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who overcame a second-set wobble to end Australian pair Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty’s run 6-4, 2-6. 6-0. The Italians were brimming with energy from the outset, swarming the net, and while Dellacqua and Barty snatched the first break of the contest, they were soon chasing the game. From 3-1 down, the Italians turned the set on its head to go 5-3 up, serving out the set shortly afterwards.

The Australians stormed back in the second set, thanks in part to a slice of early good fortune. Barty’s cross-court backhand clipped the net and looped beyond Errani to secure a 2-0 lead, consolidated with a couple of fine lobs over Vinci to go 3-0 up, but there was nothing lucky about her winner on set point – backpedalling around her backhand to unleash a wickedly angled forehand pass to level the match.

Errani and Vinci were not to be denied, however, and quickly undid their opponents’ good work by breaking Barty in the opening game of the third. When Dellacqua also dropped serve there was nothing for it but to go for broke in the fourth; but whether battering Vinci at the net or trading blows with Errani, the No.6 seeds could not find a way through. A sweet lob volley from Errani and a return winner from Vinci sent them on their way to the third break of the set, served out with an ace after 78 minutes.

With Andrea Petkovic and Magdalena Rybarikova having booked their place in the final four on Wednesday, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic completed the line-up with a hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova. Mladenovic, the 2013 Mixed Doubles champion, fired two majestic returns down the line past Rodionova to set up the crucial break in the third before Babos bludgeoned their opponents into submission on their first match point.

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