Different Paths: Petkovic Made to Work, Keys Keyed In

So far this week, defending champion Andrea Petkovic has been winning the hard way.

The No. 3 seed from Germany worked her way through a second three-set match on Friday afternoon, beating a spirited Danka Kovinic, the 20-year-old qualifier 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to advance to her second consecutive Volvo Car Open semifinal and keeping in tact her perfect record in Charleston, a pristine 11-0.

MORE: Semifinal Saturday Schedule | Tickets Still Available | Updated Draws 

“This was a very important match for me mentally,” said Petkovic, who on Saturday will face countrywoman Angelique Kerber in the second of two semifinals set for a 1pm start.

“It’s just a huge step forward being able to stay in those matches and gather myself after such a big emotional letdown from my side. I’m happy with that.”

Kerber won an evening thriller Thursday night, needing two tiebreaks to beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6, 7-6.

Petkovic will go in the favorite to said semifinal, as will American Madison Keys, the 20 year old who is seeded No. 7 here this week.

But it’s been a different story for Keys this week, the world No. 18 losing just nine games in her three matches played and never dropping her serve. Friday she defeated compatriot Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2 to make semifinals here for the first time.

Keys had a breakout event at the Cup in 2013, when as an 18 year old she was a quarterfinalist before losing to Venus Williams. The Illinois native made the semifinals at the Australian Open in January of this year, her best run at a Grand Slam to date.

“I was definitely more of the underdog playing through it and hadn’t had as much success,” Keys said of 2013. “This year… I’ve been the seed (and) I’ve been the one who’s supposed to win, and it’s a different pressure, for sure. And you know, so far it’s been going well. Two years ago there was definitely a lot more close matches, and I wasn’t playing as comfortably on (clay), so, so far this year it’s definitely been a little bit easier to get to where I am.

Keys, who this week is being coached by doubles success story Lisa Raymond, will face qualifier Lucie Hradecka in the semifinals. The Czech veteran kept alive her Cinderella run here this week with a 6-2, 6-4 upset of No. 4 seed Sara Errani in the quarterfinals. It was Hradecka’s sixth victory of the week, counting two matches in the qualifying draw.

It will be Keys and Hradecka’s first career meeting.

“(When I arrived last Saturday) I was joking with my coach, ‘I hope we’ll be not like from plane to car and car to plane and go home,” Hradecka, 29, said. “And one week later and I am still here. And that’s awesome. I was looking forward for the clay season, because the clay is my favorite surface. So I’m so happy.” 

Petkovic will meet Kerber for the 10th time. While Kerber leads their head-to-head 6-3, Petkovic has won the most recent three matches, though they haven’t faced one another since 2011.

A day of frustration for Petkovic ended up in victory, and – she hopes – a step close to another Cup trophy.

“I expected her to play great tennis, but… I have trouble controlling my emotions,” said Petkovic, who has been made to work in each of her three matches here. “I get upset with myself that I can’t control my emotions, and you know, it’s just a constant battle. I was lucky in the beginning of the second set (because) she gave me a few presents, and then I found my rhythm and I sort of snapped my teeth into the game again.”