- Associated Press - Thursday, January 26, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Petra Kvitova was disappointed to fall short against the more experienced Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

However, after her breakthrough season in 2011, the 21-year-old Czech put the 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 loss in perspective.

“Yes, of course I’m disappointed right now,” Kvitova said Thursday. “If I look back, I don’t know, in a week, for example, it will be a good tournament for me, first semifinal in the Australian Open. So, I mean, now I’m really sad, but in the next days it will be fine.”

The big-hitting Czech has quickly established herself as one of the game’s elite players and a legitimate contender for major titles.

Consider where Kvitova had been a year ago: She came into the 2011 Australian Open seeded No. 25 and went out meekly to then-No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals.

She won two tournaments before her remarkable run at Wimbledon, where she defeated Sharapova in the final for her first Grand Slam title. She capped off the year by winning the WTA Championships and rising to No. 2 in the rankings.

Kvitova could have gone all the way to No. 1 this week had she won in Melbourne.

She defeated Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 at the 2011 Wimbledon final in their first meeting.

“Probably, I play more aggressive in the Wimbledon and didn’t have a lot of mistakes,” she said. “It was fine match for the people, hopefully. I’m looking forward for the next matches.”


INSTANT CHEMISTRY: Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva may want to make their doubles partnership a permanent one.

The Russians are playing together for only the sixth time _ and the first time since last year’s French Open _ but they’ve made it all the way to the Australian Open final. On Friday, they’ll face the Italian duo of Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani on Friday.

Both Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are better known for their singles play _ they each reached career-high No. 2 _ but they’re not exactly strangers to the doubles circuit.

Kuznetsova has 14 doubles titles and won the 2005 Australian Open with Alicia Molik, and Zvonareva has five titles and captured the 2006 U.S. Open with Nathalie Dechy.

They’re the first unseeded pair in the Australian Open women’s doubles final since Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko won in 2008.

Vinci and Errani, the 11th-seeded team, reached the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Open together.

Errani is enjoying the best Grand Slam tournament of her career. She reached the singles quarterfinals _ her highest level _ and tested Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova before falling in straight sets.


TV BLACKOUT: Bob Bryan will play for his record 12th Grand Slam doubles title with his brother Mike on Saturday, but he’s advising his wife Michelle not to watch on TV.

The couple is expecting the birth of their first child _ a girl _ and the due date just happens to fall on the same day as the doubles final.

“I’ve been telling her, ‘Don’t watch the matches, it will get your heart rate going and you might spit that baby out,’” Bob Bryan said after the brothers’ tight semifinal win Thursday. “She knows she’s a few days away from me coming home. She’s not going to risk it, not now.”

Bryan almost caught an earlier flight back to Miami. The top-seeded brothers had to fight off a match point and rally from a 5-2 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker to beat Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania.

“I think we maybe got a little lucky,” Mike Bryan said. “Played kind of our best tennis at the very end.”

The brothers were coming off a tough, three-set quarterfinal win over Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland that didn’t finish until 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. They got a late start after the 4-hour-plus singles quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych at Rod Laver Arena.

The Americans play the unseeded pairing of Leander Paes of India and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the final for a chance to make history.

They’re tied at 11 career Grand Slam titles with the Australian doubles team of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, known at home as the “Woodies.”

“They’ve always seemed like they’ve been happy for us and our success,” Bob Bryan said. “They seem very secure with their own achievements and career. They’ve had an amazingly decorated history on the court.”

Whatever happens on Saturday, Bob Bryan will be on the first flight out of Melbourne on Sunday morning.

“(Michelle’s) been so happy and supportive of what we’re doing,” Bob Bryan said. “That makes it really easy.”



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