World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska was taken to tiebreaks in both sets by unheralded American Jamie Hampton before edging her way into the final of the ASB Tennis Classic.
Top-seeded Radwanska had dropped only 10 games on her way to yesterday’s semi-final, sweeping her first three matches in straight sets, but was fully taxed by the 71st-ranked Hampton before winning 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3).
Poland’s Radwanska will now face third-seeded former champion Yanina Wickmayer in today’s final.
Wickmayer reached her third singles final in Auckland when she beat eighth-seeded German Mona Barthel 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/3).
Radwanska, ranked 14 places above her nearest rival in Auckland, had looked a cut above the field as she eased into the semi-finals with wins over fomer champion Greta Arn, Simona Halep and Elena Vesnina.
The slightly built Pole plays mostly from behind the baseline, keeping the ball in play through long rallies and often catching out opponents with her ungainly, crouching forehand and off-balance backhand.
However, she found it difficult against Hampton, who had beaten defending champion Zheng Jie, local hope Marina Erakovic and Kiki Bertens on her way to the last four.
After the first set had gone with serve to 5-5, Hampton became the first player in Auckland to break Radwanska’s serve and led 5-6.
She held a set point on serve, but double faulted, then dropped serve to cause a tiebreak.
Neither player served well in the tiebreak, put off by a swirling wind, and there were six mini breaks before Radwanska clinched the game and set in 61 minutes.
The Pole then dashed to a 4-0 lead in the second set as Hampton seemed deterred by her failure to convert her set-point chance.
However, just as it seemed Radwanska would stroll to victory, the American won the next four games to level the set and force a second tiebreak.
Again, Radwanska managed to win a handful of vital points to clinch the set and match.
Chinese tennis star Li Na cruised into the final of the Shenzhen Open with a straight sets victory in her semi-final match yesterday, putting her in pole position to claim her seventh WTA singles title.