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Friday, February 19, 2010
Venus dispatches Peer in semifinals

Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Venus Williams ended the stirring run of Israel's Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships on Friday.

Victoria Azarenka ousted Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-4 in the other semifinal at Aviation Club and will face Williams, who is going for her second straight Dubai title.

"I am definitely pleased to be in the final," Williams said. "I wondered how I would feel playing against her, if I would feel the pressure she might feel. But once I was on the court, I was just focused."

Peer's movements in Dubai have been restricted to the court and a hotel due to organizers' security concerns. The Israeli, who was last year denied a visa by the United Arab Emirates authorities, was surrounded by guards and played on the most secure court -- not Centre Court -- all week. Despite this, she beat three seeds, including No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

"I cannot even speak of what it must be like [for her]," Williams added. "She played so well this week."

Williams agreed to defend her title this year only if the Israeli player was admitted to the Emirates. That earned gratitude from Peer.

"I told her I really appreciate her support this week and last year," Peer said, adding that Williams took the decision to move Friday's match to a side court gracefully.

Peer's defensive approach failed to slow Williams, who raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Peer won the fifth game against serve, but Williams quickly extinguished the Israeli's hopes of a comeback by taking the final two games to win the set in just 23 minutes.

In the second, the players traded breaks early before Williams secured a decisive second break in the seventh game.

Williams then survived five break points in the following game to go 5-3 up, and served out.

"She started very strong. She was all over me," Peer said. "I felt like I had no time in the points. I think I played a very good second set. I missed one or two chances, but overall it was good tennis."

Peer downplayed the controversy that resulted in a $300,000 fine for the Dubai tournament last year, saying she was pleased with how the week had gone.

"I think I achieved a lot in this tournament, professionally and mentally," she said. "I've been going through a lot and I am really happy how I managed this week.

"I learned I am a very good player and I can be there at the top."

Azarenka edged Radwanska on serve to move ahead 3-2 in the head-to-head matchups between the 20-year-olds.

Azarenka, ranked sixth in the world, will be chasing her fourth career title, all in the past year. She lost her only previous match against Williams at the Beijing Olympics, before her rise into the top 10.

"I am definitely very excited for the finals," Azarenka said. "Against Venus, you have to play your best tennis to really show a great fight because she's a great champion, and she knows how to play well in big matches. So, for me, the most important thing is to play my own game and try to do my best."