Seeds downed in Bali
Daniela Hantuchova (File)
Bali - Wild card Daniela Hantuchova relied on the calming effect of her previous tennis experience in tropical Bali to reach the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions to complete the elimination of all four seeds Friday.
The 27-year-old Slovak ranked 31st put out fourth seed Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to conclude opening-round play at the eight- woman event for winners of WTA International events this season.
Earlier, Russian Alisa Kleybanova accounted for holder and second seed Aravane Rezai 6-1, 6-2 in just 76 minutes. Friday's opening day was also the closing for top seed Li Na of China and number three Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both beaten.
The higher profile of the two Saturday semis will feature Japan's 40-year-old wonderwoman Kimiko Date Krumm facing marquee name Ana Ivanovic.
Hantuchova has past experience in Bali, reaching the semi-finals in 2007 when the venue was a regular WTA September event.
The good memories came flooding back as she held off Wickmayer as the Belgian recovered twice from a break down in the second set but double-faulted on a Hantuchova match point after nearly two hours.
"Technically I was playing the right way, except the end when I got a little tight and it got very close," said Hantuchova, now 5-0 against Wickmayer. "Fortunately for me I managed to close it out, I'm really happy with the win.
"I have nothing to lose here; I'm here as a wildcard, so every win is a good one for me," said Hantuchova, winner of three career trophies. "It's so relaxing here. It's a beautiful place and I enjoy coming back every time."
France's Rezai was listless as she tried to defend her 2009 Bali title, obtained when compatriot Marion Bartoli had to quit after losing their first set 12 months ago.
Rezai took her first game, then faded away as Kleybanova won six straight games to claim the opener and followed up in the second with similar domination despite losing the opening game on a break of serve.
The Russian reached 4-2, held for 5-2 with a fourth ace and broke Rezai for a sixth time to ice the quick victory.
"It was a tough score but I think the match wasn't that bad," said Rezai. "I had plenty of chances to break her and every game we fought to win.
"I'm a little bit down in my confidence because I lost a lot of matches during the end of the season. I didn't play good at the important points."
Kelybanova was happy to go through to the weekend. "I was playing well today. The score makes it look easy, but the match was tough.
"It was still a big fight but I'm happy with the way I played. I played well on the important points, that's why I was able to win like this. I was on top of my game the whole match."
Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) bt Aravane Rezai (FRA x2) 6-1, 6-2
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) bt Yanina Wickmayer (BEL x4) 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)
For gorgeous gifts at gorgeous prices, click here for the ultimate Christmas gift guide from Clicks.