Elise Mertens is a single win away from making history at the Hobart International. The No.2 seed and defending champion beat the 2015 titlist Heather Watson 6-4 1-6 6-2 and continued her bid to become the first player to win the title twice in the tournament's history.
The Belgian will meet Romanian sensation Mihaela Buzarnescu, playing in her maiden WTA final as she upset No.5 seed Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 6-2. “She made the same run [from qualifying] as I did last year, but I’m happy to win today,” Mertens said in her on-court interview.
The Belgian became the seventh two-time finalist after Mana Endo, Dominique Van Roost, Chanda Rubin, Rita Grande, Amy Frazier and Mona Barthel. Mertens maintained an aggressive approach from the beginning of the match. The Belgian tried to dictate the pace and maintain the rallies shorter.
One break, in the fifth game, was enough to seal the set despite Watson pushed her to deuce eight times. In the second set, a perfect lob helped the Brit create the first break chance of the match. She took it and started a streak of five straight games won.
With a daring dropshot, Watson became the first player to take a set off the Belgian in her two-year run in Hobart. “I’ve played some great tennis this week and come through some tough battles which has made me feel very ready for if it gets tough in Melbourne,” Watson said.
But she had to blame her unforced errors in the decider. “I’m really disappointed, but more because I didn’t feel that I played that well today,” Watson said. “I was feeling the ball well and moving well, but the timing was just a bit off.
Because I’ve been playing so well I expected more from myself”. Mertens won five of the last six games to clinch the 204th overall victory of her career and improved to 15-8 her win-loss record in the deciding sets in WTA main draw matches.
“I tried to play a bit more aggressive in the third set and make her run a little bit more,” Mertens explained in her on-court interview. “She was dictating me in the second set, all credits to her. She played an amazing match”.
In her third WTA final, the Belgian will face Buzarnescu, projected to rise to a career-high No.44 next week. “I was dreaming about it of course, but I never expected it,” Buzarnescu said. “I mean, I am not young.
I am 29. Who would expect this at 29?”. In a match delayed by rain Buzarnescu, playing her second WTA semifinal ever, showed no signs of nerves against a misfiring Tsurenko, who finished with 39 unforced errors. “I just tried to play, play, play. That’s all,” Buzarnescu said.