The semi-final standings for the 2012 WTA Championships will be decided today after two favourites for the crown booked their place in the knockout stage early on Thursday.
Both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova overcame brief scares to win their second matches of the Istanbul championships and secure a birth in the semis, regardless of their last round-robin result on Friday afternoon.
Williams, who tops the Red Group, will face the winner of Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani, both of whom will fancy their chances despite Radwanska holding a 5-1 record over the Italian.
Top of the White Group, Sharapova, awaits the victor of world number one Victoria Azarenka and Li Na, both of whom have one win under their belts. Azarenka had to battle hard to defeat Angelique Kerber in her first match and it clearly took its toll on Kerber heading into the next day with Li, who soundly beat the German 6-4 6-3.
With Williams and Sharapova both safely through to the knockout stage, they may take it easy this Friday and preserve much-needed energy for what is to be a gruelling weekend of finals tennis.
The semi-finals will be…
Williams v [winner of Radwanska v Errani]
Sharapova v [winner of Azarenka v Li]