Today’s OEC Taipei WTA Challenger singles final will be an all-Belgian affair after Yanina Wickmayer and Alison Van Uytvanck both earned straight sets victories at the Taipei Arena yesterday.
No. 2 seed Wickmayer breezed past Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1, but Van Uytvanck was made to work harder to down Germany’s Dinah Pfizenmaier 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
Wickmayer held serve in the first game of her match against world No. 114 Kumkhum, but three consecutive breaks of serve followed before Wickmayer held again. She claimed the set on the first of three set points when Kumkhum hit a backhand long.
The match then rapidly slipped away from the Thai as the 20-year-old dropped her serve twice more to find herself trailing 0-4 in the second set. The end was not long in coming, Wickmayer hitting a backhand winner on her first match point.
Van Uytvanck made a flying start in the second semi-final, opening up a 5-1 lead against her 98th-ranked opponent.
Pfizenmaier broke back twice to level at 5-5 and the set then went to a tiebreak. There were two mini-breaks before an ace left the Belgian with a set point. Pfizenmaier then landed a backhand in the net to leave Van Uytvanck in the driving seat.
Again the German found herself trailing early in the next set after dropping her serve in the second game, but she immediately broke back and then held serve to level.
The red-haired Belgian survived four break points in the next game, before the momentum shifted after she asked to see her coach.
“At 3-2 I was happy to get my coach on court, and he helped me a lot and then I started to play better,” Van Uytvanck said.
The Belgian was told she was being too passive and to try to dominate with her forehand and attack her opponent’s forehand, advice that paid off as Pfizenmaier dropped her serve in the next game.
At 5-3, Van Uytvanck had three match points. A Pfizenmaier forehand on the first clipped the top of the net, before dropping on her own side of the court and the 19-year-old Belgian was in the final.
The odds favor Wickmayer for today’s showdown, the world No. 59 being ranked 70 places higher than her opponent. Wickmayer also beat Van Uytvanck on the only occasion on which they have previously met in a WTA tournament.
However, Van Uytvanck pointed out that was two years ago on clay, a very different surface.
“I have a lot of confidence right now so ... I’m going to give my best,” she said of today’s final.
Asked about the secret of her success this week, the unseeded Belgian said she liked the environment and was keen to end the season on a high.
Van Uytvanck also pointed out one of the differences of playing in a higher-level WTA-sanctioned tournament.
“It helps when you get a coach on court,” Van Uytvanck said. “That’s an advantage when you play WTA instead of ITF. For me, I’m still learning, I’m still quite young, so it’s helping me with my matches.”
In the doubles semi-finals, Caroline Garcia of France and Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova defeated No. 3 seeds Zheng Saisai of China and Petra Martic of Croatia 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), while Van Uytvanck teamed up with Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany to beat Olga Savchuk of Ukraine and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-7.