Two seeds -- second seed Meghann Shaughnessy and fifth seed Anca Barna, survived a bitterly cold day and entered the semi-finals at the Tashkent Open in Uzbekistan on Friday. But two others, both Spaniards, third seed Marta Marrero and fourth seed Arantxa Parra Santonja, were eliminated.
It was a day when the players woke up in the morning to see snow flurries outside the windows of their hotel rooms. It was overcast and the temperatures hovered around the 2 degree Celsius mark. Start of play was delayed by more than an hour and half as the courts were wet.
Said Shaughnessy, after her 6-2, 6-3 win over lucky loser Olga Savchuk of Ukraine: "It's the first time in my life I've played a match a couple of hours after it stopped snowing. It was freezing."
Said Barna, who overcame spirited resistance from Italian Antonella Serra-Zanetti to win 7-5, 6-3, when told about the day temperature: "Two degrees! It felt more like minus 20!"
A light breeze started soon after the matches began and it became even chillier. Most of the players played in track pants or wore long-sleeved shirts. But Marrero, who lost 7-5, 6-4 to Frenchwoman Virgine Razzano, played in her shorts and t-shirt. "I can't play with long pants on," she explained when asked if the cold hadn't affected her.
The weather improved by the time Nicole Vaidisova and Parra Santonja got on court and the sun even came out towards the end of the second set. As the court warmed up, so did Vaidisova and she continued her impressive run in the tournament with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 win over the fourth seed.
Shaughnessy perhaps had to work harder than anticipated to get past a plucky Savchuk. The cold really bothered her and she was never on top of her game and she was quite happy to get a result.
"The circumstances were difficult for both of us, difficult to feel the ball, difficult to move."
She had problems with her service, Savchuk in fact broke her twice, once when she served for the first set, but one part of her game Shaughnessy must be pleased with was the way she returned serve. She jumped on Savchuk's second serve and hit crunching winners at will.
"Shaughnessy has a good serve and very good returns, especially on my second serve. Maybe I could have done better if it was not so cold, my hands were so cold I couldn't feel anything," Savchuk said after the match.
But the 17-year-old Savchuk had no complaints in the end.
"I'm very, very happy," she said. "This is the best result of my life. This tournament has been good for me."
She can also take encouragement from Shaughnessy's words: "Savchuk's a good fighter. She really wants it, wants it bad."
Shaughnessy plays Nicole Vaidisova in tomorrow's semi-finals. The two have not met before.
Confidence has been the key to Vaidisova's successful run in this tournament and that was severely tested in today's match against Parra Santonja, especially after she got broken while serving for the first set at 5-4.
She missed an easy forehand put away that would have given her setpoint and then made two errors on the forehand.
"It didn't feel too good then," said the 15-year-old Vaidisova, who knocked out sixth seed seed Anna-Lena Groenfeld in the previous round. "But I didn't let it get me down."
Again in the second set, she had an early 4-1 lead, with two breaks. She allowed Parra to get one break back and then double-faulted to make it 30-all when she was serving for the set.
"At that point, the memory of the first set came back. But I didn't let it upset me," she said.
Two good serves gave her the set and she was a transformed player after that, just rolling over her seeded opponent in the final set.
"At crucial points in the first and second set, I didn't serve well," Vaidisova said. "But from the first point of the third set, I picked up my game. I returned very well."
Parra Santonja, a semi-finalist here last year, was bitterly disappointed after her loss. She felt she played better than she did in her previous round against Yakimova, which she won from being 4-0 down in the final set.
"I was confident," she said, "but Vaidisova makes you run. You have to play offensively to beat her, she's tough, she's confident. In the third set, I was tired and she didn't give me a chance to come back. She hits so hard and has so much power."
Razzano won a real topsy-turvy match, full of long rallies and close games in an hour and 49 minutes. The first five games in the match went against serve and then Marrero broke twice to go 5-2 up, only to lose the next five games and the set.
Razzano, who said she would have rather played indoors than in the freezing conditions, got more confident as the match wore on and became the aggressor.
"I started taking the ball early to put pressure on her. She was finding it difficult to move," Razzano said. "She's a good player, I play well but she's tough and rallies a lot."
Marrero admitted that Razzano was the better player than today but she felt the court they played on, which was used as a practice court on other days, was slightly faster than the other courts and that proved to be to her disadvantage.
"I play better on slower courts," she said.
Marrero added that this was her last match for the year. "I'm taking a holiday," she said with a huge grin. "I want to rest. I have played in 29 tournaments this year, done well with my ranking and I'm happy."
Razzano plays Anca Barna in the semi-finals. They've met three times before, with Razzano winning two and losing the third, in 2002, which was the last time they met.
Left-handed Barna took a long time to warm up. She was broken in the first game and Serra Zanetti, varying her game well, with drops and the occasional sortie to the net, had her chances to wrap up the first set. She had a set point on Barna's serve in the ninth game and then served for the set in the 10th.
A double-fault, however, scuppered her chances. She lost serve after one deuce and after that was rarely in the match.
"I started playing better as the match progressed. Even if I had lost the first set, I was confident of coming back as my game, especially my service, started to come together," Barna said after the victory.
She added that she knew had to be patient against Serra Zanetti, having played against her before. "I know her game, she waits for her opponents to make mistakes. So I had to keep the ball in play."
In the doubles semi-final, top-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy and Anna-Lena Groenfeld had to retire against the Serra Zanetti sisters after Groenfeld had a wrist problem.
(2) Meghann Shaughnessy (USA) beat Olga Savchuk (Ukr) 6-2, 6-3
Virginie Razzano (Fra) beat (3) Marta Marrero (Esp) 7-5, 6-4
(5) Anca Barna (Ger) beat Antonella Serra Zanetti (Ita) 7-5, 6-3
Nicole Vaidisova (Cze) beat (4) Arantxa Parra Santonja (Ita) 5-7, 6-4, 6-0
Doubles semi-final results:
Adriana/Antonella Serra Zanetti beat (1) Anna-Lena Groenfeld/Meghann Shaughnessy 6-4, 2-1 retired
(2) Marion Bartoli/Mara Santangelo beat Yulia Beygelzimer/Silvija Talaja 6-3, 2-6, 6-1