Bartoli Last Seed Standing at WTA Tokyo

Posted on October 7, 2006

TOKYO, Japan -- After rain wiped out most of Thursday's schedule, those left in the AIG Japan Open draw were forced to double up Friday if they wanted to make the semifinals. Four managed to step it up but for the most part, not those anyone would have guessed.

Marion Bartoli, the top seed, completed a 62 64 second round win over Vera Dushevina, then crushed qualifier Junri Namigata, 62 61, to make her third semifinal appearance since the US Open, having reached the final in Bali and the semis last week in Seoul.

The Frenchwoman's projected final opponent, No.2 seed and two-time former champion Ai Sugiyama, was not so fortunate. Having won her second round match on Thursday before the rains came, the Japanese veteran was stunned by 17-year-old Taiwanese Chan Yung-Jan, 63 64. Sugiyama, an overwhelming crowd favorite when playing in her home country, was dejected after the loss, her worst in terms of ranking since Roland Garros.

"I'm not happy about the quality of my play," she said. "It was a combination of physical and mental conditions affecting each other, resulting in unsatisfactory performance. Chan was moving well and I was not. It was a difficult match."

"I thought it was an excellent match," said the 132nd-ranked Chan, who had never won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles main draw match before this week. "This will be my first semifinal, I'm so happy. The key to my win today was my focus and mental toughness. I served and returned okay and didn't make many mistakes. I knew the crowd would be making a lot of noise for her so I had to try hard to block them out. I knew I had to do that to win."

The always-gracious Sugiyama had kind words for her conqueror.

"She has been playing well during the week. I knew about her. She has quick footwork, and fought with a nothing-to-lose spirit. She has good backhand, and we probably play in a similar style. But more than that, I should say that she has the vitality and the spirit which I always had."

Japanese hopes stayed alive through another player, however. Aiko Nakamura, who received a wild card into the main draw, won her second round match when No.4 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues retired with a left hamstring strain, then squeaked out a 61 16 76(4) victory over Jamea Jackson to reach her very first career Tour singles semifinal.

"I was a little sad we had to play at another site today because of rain, because I really wanted to play at Ariake stadium where all the fans were," said Nakamura, who found herself having to fight back from 2-0 down in the third versus Jackson. "I played tough in the third so I could come back here tomorrow for the semifinal. It will be my first semifinal and I'm really excited. It feels so good to win."

Also winning through to the final four was French qualifier Camille Pin, who won two three-setters, over qualifier Lilia Osterloh and lucky loser Youlia Fedossova, to reach just her second career semifinal.

Both semifinals will take the Ariake Coliseum on Saturday. Bartoli and Pin play for the fifth time, Bartoli leading that series, 3-1 (in their only prior 2006 meeting, Bartoli prevailed, 60 62, at Wimbledon). Nakamura and Chan have faced each other once previously, with the Japanese winning at an ITF event last year.
-- WTA