Unseeded Elena Likhovtseva of Russia upset former world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati of the United States 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup on Friday.
Second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France also advanced to Saturday’s semifinals by beating 12th-seeded Karolina Sprem of Croatia 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Mauresmo is vying to win for the second time in three years.
Likhovtseva will play third-seeded Anastasia Myskina of Russia, the French Open champion who downed 13th-seeded Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria 7-5, 6 1. Earlier this year, Likhovtseva beat Myskina on clay at Rome but lost to her on a hardcourt in Doha, Qater.
“She’s my best friend, so it will be really hard for us,” Myskina said of Likhovtseva. “I just hope it’s a good match.”
Mauresmo will face 10th-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who easily defeated 16-year-old Russian-born teenager Tatiana Golovin of France 6-3, 6-1 in a match interrupted for 30 minutes by rain. Mauresmo has won all three of her previous meetings with Zvonareva.
It is the second week in a row that three Russians have reached the semifinals of a WTA tournament. Last week in San Diego, Myskina, Zvonareva and Elena Dementieva reached the semis.
The Kazakhstan-born Likhovtseva ran down nearly every ball from fifth-seeded Capriati in an intense baseline battle between two 28-year-olds on the hard-court at Uniprix Stadium.
“I knew I had to control Jennifer (from the baseline) from the beginning,” said Likhovtseva, who has three wins in seven career meetings with Capriati. “But she played well, too.”
Capriati recovered from a 5-3 second-set deficit to tie it 5-5, but Likhovtseva held service and then saw Capriati make unforced errors on the final two points of the match. Capriati, who won the tournament in 1991 and has been a finalist three times, is recovering from a hamstring injury and was in her first tournament since Wimbledon.
“She played her best,” Capriati said. “It’s like that every time and when I’m not 100 percent on my game, it just makes it more difficult. It opens the door for them to win.”
Mauresmo got a scare from the hard-hitting, 19-year-old Sprem, who controlled the first set with a blazing serve that reached up to 190 kph (120 mph), as well as fierce groundstrokes.
She broke Mauresmo’s serve in the first game, but she struggled with her own service while Mauresmo took over with a steady baseline game. Sprem made 42 unforced errors.
“She played really well in the first set,” said Mauresmo. “But when you hit the ball with the intensity that she does and put 100 percent into every shot, you can’t put every ball in, otherwise you’re No. 1 in the world.
“I just waited a bit and thought: If this lasts, what can I do? But when you put intensity into every shot, it’s a risky game because at the end of the match, there’s a lot of unforced errors and I guess a lot of winners, too.”
With the third set tied 3-3, Sprem doubled-faulted twice to hand Mauresmo a lead the world No. 3 would not relinquish.
Mauresmo returned to the WTA circuit last week in San Diego, where she lost her first match, and struggled through her first two matches in Montreal against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand and Elena Bovina of Russia. All three of her matches have gone to three sets.
She said her game picked up against Sprem and that “I’ve improved since the first two matches.” She added with a laugh: “I’ve had time to adjust. I spent a lot of time on the court.”
Zvonareva was never challenged by Golovin, who was developed at the same Florida tennis academy as Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.
“She’s a great player and she’s a lot more experienced,” said Golovin, who has climbed from No. 354 to No. 38 in the rankings this year. “I’m only starting to play against the top players, so it’s hard for me to get out there and believe that I’m going to win.
“I need to play more matches like that, make a tighter score and then eventually win them.”