Venus Williams reached her second straight final at the Barclays Championships, scoring what turned into a hard-fought win over Israeli Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-4.
Williams, seeded third, will await the winner from a later semifinal between fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Polish number seven Agnieszwa Radwanska.
The Williams victory was a match of two parts on an outside court with 1,500 spectators vetted by airport-style security before being allowed in.
The Israeli has been under special protection all week as she becomes the first player from her nation to compete at the WTA event in the Gulf emirate.
Organizers were likely breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the prospect of avoiding a possible final being held Saturday night on the smaller outside court should Peer have gone through.
“In the first set, she was making most of the errors,” said Williams, who beat Virginie Razzano of France in the 2009 final. “It is sometimes easy to get complacent.
“But she picked up her game in the second set and I had to dig deep to win.” The American held a 2-0 record in their series going in, with Peer never having won more than three games in any of their combined four sets. Five-time Wimbledon winner Williams screamed through the opening set in a quick 23 minutes as was up a break 2-0 in the second before Peer suddenly came alive.
The number 22 playing in her second high-profile career semifinal after Miami in 2007, forced her elite opponent to suddenly start saving break points.
But the Israeli set a personal best, forcing Williams to save five breakpoints against her serve in the eighth game, holding for a 5-3 lead as the end approached.
Peer fought valiantly on, holding for 4-5 and against putting the favourite under pressure a game later. Williams needed three match points — she double-faulted away her second chance with a fourth serving miscue — before emerging into her first final since Miami 11 months ago.