Semifinal Saturday: Close Friends and Near Strangers Do Battle

One pair of Volvo Car Open semifinal opponents has been close friends for years and years. The other? They barely know one another.

But Saturday proves to be a day of knockout tennis, as rising American star Madison Keys takes to the court against an-upset minded qualifier in Lucie Hradecka before German compatriots and confidantes Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber square off in the second semifinal.

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Petkovic has faced an uphill battle this week, twice coming from behind and winning a tight two-setter. She and Kerber have played nine times in their pro careers, the No. 5 seed Kerber winning six of those. 

“You know, I think every match starts from zero and I knew Andrea very well,” said Kerber. “We are really good friends, and we practice a lot in the past. So I will just go out there, try to play my best.”

Petkovic brings her perfect 11-0 record at this tournament into Saturday’s match, but history has sided with Kerber – for the most part.

“It’s actually a funny story with Angie, because in juniors I used to lose to her all the time,” said Petkovic, the No. 3 seed. “I’ve improved my game since then. I have much more variety to my game and I have more weapons. But Angie has improved as well… it’s always fun, always great rallies and it’s always very close.”

It has been a standout week for Keys, the 20 year old from Illinois who made the Australian Open semifinal in January. She has dropped just nine games in three matches here, never losing her serve.

Keys comes up against another hard hitter in Hradecka, a qualifier who is brimming with confidence having won six matches in seven days. They’ve never faced off in singles.

“I don’t know her well,” said Keys. “Obviously she’s a really solid ball striker, but other than that, I don’t really know much.”

“I know that she is a great player,” added Hradecka, a veteran at 29. “She has a similar game (to) me, good serve and power. I will do my best, and we’ll see what happens.”

Saturday’s doubles semifinals are thrillers as well, as the undefeated team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza meet Russians Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova first before Petkovic returns to court with partner Marina Erakovic to battle Casey Dellacqua and Darija Jurak. Those matches are to follow the singles semifinals.