Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu yesterday continued her fairy-tale run through the WTA Classic, stunning Taiwanese third seed Hsieh Su-wei to set up a final against defending champion Julia Goerges.
The 18-year-old qualifier’s 6-3, 6-3 semi-final triumph followed victories over world No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.
In contrast, second-seed Goerges, who beat Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova 6-1, 7-6 (8/6) in her semi-final, has not faced one seeded player all week.
For the unflappable Andreescu, ranked 152nd in the world, it is the first final of her fledgling career after arriving in Auckland with the simple aim of getting through the qualifying tournament.
She has surprised even herself with the way her baseline power, drop-shot finesse and athleticism have come together.
“I guess Auckland brings out the best in me. I don’t know what’s going on really,” she said after defeating Hsieh. “What’s really important for me is to stay in the present moment and I’ve been doing that all week and I’m beyond grateful right now.”
With a place booked in the final, Andreescu is also eyeing a qualifying spot in the Australian Open main draw because her ranking is not high enough for direct entry.
Goerges was in near perfect form as she raced through the first set in less than 30 minutes with a power game that forced Kuzmova well behind the baseline.
However, the second set took twice as long as Kuzmova found the 30-year-old German’s weak spot.
“In the first set I didn’t give her any chance to get her rhythm and I was very aggressive,” Goerges said. “In the second she pushed me back, which I don’t like actually, but that happens sometimes, and I’m very happy that I pulled it out at the end.”
Top seed Aryna Sabalenka won the Shenzhen Open yesterday after a nail-biting clash against three-time finalist Alison Riske.
Sabalenka lost the first set to her US opponent before coming back to win the match 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
It was the Belarussian’s fifth WTA final in the past 10 months and her first international trophy. The world No. 13 had a breakthrough season last year when she won titles in Wuhan and New Haven, Connecticut.
“It was a tough day for us, especially to come back after the first set. She [Riske] played unbelievable, an incredible match,” Sabalenka said. “To start the season with a title, it gives you more belief in yourself, and hopefully I can do well at the Australian Open.”
A quarter-finalist on her debut in Shenzhen last year, Sabalenka lost to eventual champion Simona Halep.
Sabalenka cruised past home favorite Wang Yafan, 6-2, 6-1, while Riske beat former world No. 2 and two-time major finalist Vera Zvonareva in the semi-finals yesterday morning, after rain washed out much of Thursday’s play and set the schedule behind by a day.
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