The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

No fan of playing on grass, Ivanovic reaches semis in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, England - Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who admits to a dislike of competing on grass, moved within one win of her first final on the surface with her third confident victory in a row at the Aegon Classic on Friday.

The top-seeded Serbian beat the sixth-seeded Czech, Klara Koukalova, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the Wimbledon warm-up event.

Ivanovic has described playing on grass as "like being stuck to the ground all of a sudden," but there was little wrong with her movement nor any evident lack of self-belief as she forcefully completed her win in 72 minutes.

There was a 20-minute phase in the second set when Koukalova, who has a grass-court title to her name, seemed capable of regaining parity and held service up until 4-3.

But Ivanovic boldly attacked off the ground to break serve in the psychologically crucial moments of the ninth game, and closed out the match without fuss.

"It's a tough transition, not only in the body and the movement, but also in the mindset," Ivanovic said of her improved grass-court showing. She was even now able to believe she could win the tournament.

"I have more confidence. It's about rhythm and getting ready for the next match. Now I have the flow," she said.

Ivanovic will meet surprise semifinalist Zhang Shuai, the ninth-seeded Chinese player who patiently took advantage of an error-prone, self-critical Sloane Stephens, the third-seeded American, to win 6-3, 6-1.

There will not be a fairytale finalist in the bottom half. Kimiko Date-Krumm, the 43-year-old Japanese who ousted defending champion Daniela Hantuchova on Thursday, was unable to emerge fresh for a fourth consecutive day, lasting only three-quarters of an hour in a 6-1, 6-0 loss to 16th-seeded Casey Dellacqua of Australia.

In the remaining quarterfinal, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic defeated fourth-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 6-2.

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