DUBAI, Feb 24 (Reuters) Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova today beat Amelie Mauresmo 7-6 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open robbing the Frenchwoman of the chance to take number one world ranking this week.
The defeat ended a run of 16 successive victories that earned Mauresmo three titles this year, including the Australian Open.
In other quarter-final matches, Russian third seed Maria Sharapova gained revenge for her recent defeat by Martina Hingis in Tokyo, beating the Swiss 6-3 6-4, while Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4 7-6.
American Lindsay Davenport came from a set down to beat unseeded Russian Maria Kirilenko 4-6 6-2 6-3.
Kuznetsova plays Henin-Hardenne in one semi-final while Sharapova will meet Davenport in the other.
''She played very well and I think I was running a little bit out of gas today. These two things combined made it pretty hard to come off the court as a winner,'' Mauresmo told reporters.
''It was getting tougher and tougher to keep going, not only physically but in the mind with the focus you have to get almost on each point, day after day, match after match.
''It's very difficult to keep up for two months, three months.
''But that's the way it is, and I always said it's tough to keep going and I knew this kind of thing would happen some day, but I'm okay with that.'' The match resumed today after play had been suspended overnight with the Frenchwoman having broken to lead 3-2 in the tie-break.
But Kuznetsova settled quickly, levelled at 4-4, and held off three set points before clinching the 22-minute tie-break 13-11 on her fifth set point.
AGGRESSION Top seeded Mauresmo made the more positive start to the second set, holding off a break point before breaking to love to lead 2-0.
She also held two break points for a 4-0 lead before Kuznetsova turned the match around, breaking in the fifth game when Mauresmo netted a weak backhand.
''To come back and break me I thought she played pretty well, very consistent and very aggressive and not making as many errors as at the beginning of that set,'' said Mauresmo.
Rallying powerfully from the baseline and also showing confidence at the net, Kuznetsova continued to stretch Mauresmo, who netted a forehand at 4-4 to leave the Russian to serve for the match.
The quality of the clash between Sharapova and Hingis fluctuated, with a series of skilful rallies contrasting with a bunch of careless errors.
After an early exchange of breaks in the first set, Sharapova broke again to lead 4-3. Hingis twice broke serve in the second set but she was unable to consolidate on both occasions.
Sharapova, who incurred seven double-faults, broke again to lead 5-3, failed to serve out the match, but broke yet again to claim victory on her third match point.
''I probably wasn't as concentrated as last time, but she played well,'' Hingis said. ''Today I think it was just a lack of patience pretty much, and that's why I came up short at the end.
''There were so many opportunities and you can't allow someone like her to come back into the game. I had so many game points, break points, and couldn't finish them.
REUTERS SC PM1750