The power of subtleties, intelligence and brilliance produced Svetlana Kuznetsova's fist final showing since 2017 Indian Wells. The Russian defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-2. With the same score, she had dismissed Yulia Putintseva, in a match delayed yesterday at 2-2 in the second to seal her first WTA semifinal since 2017 Madrid.
In her bid to clinch her first title since triumphing on home soil at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow in 2016 Kuznetsova, who lost just 14 games in 4 matches, will face Donna Vekic. The Croat turned back China’s Saisai Zheng 7-5 6-3 to qualify for her first WTA final of the season.
Previously she had knocked off Magda Linette 6-1 7-6(0) as a consequence of the rain-hampered tournament. "I didn't expect such a good result so fast, because I haven't been playing so well after my injury, after my surgery, so it took me some time to get back" she said after her victory over Putintseva, her second against a Top 60 player in 2018 as she had previously defeated Maria Sakkari in Eastbourne.
The Russian went out of the Top100 for the first time after 831 consecutive weeks starting from 12 August 2002 after Wimbledon, but gave glimpses her multi-faceted personality and game. She was the first to break and held to 4-2 after a 9-minute tense sixth game in the opener.
Petkovic, visibly frustrated at the end of the set, asked for her coach, Dusan Vemic, but got broken immediately. In the last game, Kuznetsova saved a pair of break back chances, the first opportunities in the set, and needed four match points to serve out the victory.
She ended the match delivering 21 winners to Petkovic's 14 and just 14 unforced errors to the German's 32. "It's been a very tough day today...and I'm a little bit tired. I'm really happy that I managed to get through this one and in two sets," Vekic was quoted to say after the match by WTAtennis.com.
"I'm really happy with the way I played. It was a tough match, but I managed to keep my level." Vekic drilled 24 winners and completed six breaks of serve against the Nanchang runner-up to reach her sixth WTA final.
The lone seed remained in the draw after the quarterfinals, Vekic played her first title-match at 2012 Tashkent. In what was her first WTA main draw appearance, became youngest WTA finalist since 15-year-old Paszek won Portoroz in 2005.
When she won the first career singles title at 2014 Kuala Lumpur, aged 17 years 10 months, became youngest player to win a WTA singles title since 2006 Bangkok (Vania King). She also finished runner-up on grass at 2013 Birmingham (l.
Hantuchova) and 2015 Tashkent (l. Hibino), then failed to win back-to-back main draw matches until claiming her second WTA singles title of career, at Nottingham last year (d. No.8 Konta). Kuznetsova, playing her 41st WTA career final, and Vekic have split two career meetings, but have not played in over two years.
"I'm good friends with her. We practiced here before the tournament and we practice quite often together," the No.7 seed said. "It's going to be a great match."