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Bondarenko, Dulgheru Move Into Warsaw Final

Alona Bondarenko is through to her second Warsaw final; last time she played Justine Henin, this time a Romanian qualifier.

Published May 22, 2009 12:00

WARSAW, Poland - Alona Bondarenko took a step closer to her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title but will have to take out the tournament's Cinderella story, Alexandra Dulgheru, to get it.

Dulgheru, ranked No.201 and a qualifier into the main draw, was the first to advance to the final, bouncing back from a marathon second set loss to beat No.6 seed Daniela Hantuchova, 64 67(2) 61. After the 67-minute second set, the Romanian, who turns 20 years old next week, blew through the third set with the loss of only 13 points.

"At moments like that it's about inspiration and desire to win for me, and I knew if I could pull through those first few games I had a chance to win," Dulgheru said about the start of the third. "Her being such a talented and experienced player, I knew if I let her get an early lead it would be incredibly difficult."

"She definitely did not play like she wasn't Top 200. Today it is all very open and anybody has a chance to beat anybody," Hantuchova said. "Alexandra has had an amazing week and now it is up to her to use this success to her advantage."

Dulgheru will try to become the fifth non-Top 200 player to win a Tour singles title. She would join Angelique Widjaja, Fabiola Zuluaga, Tamira Paszek and Lindsay Davenport, who won titles as No.579, No.285, No.259 and No.234.

"I've had an incredible week. It's actually an amazing story," said Dulgheru, who is in her first main draw on the Tour. "I was very lucky to play here at all. I was coming back from a $50,000 in France and I missed my flight. I got here right before my match. I was lucky it rained and I was scheduled to play a day later.

"I just tried to take it one match at a time, and did not plan to make it this far. This is an incredible experience for me, this is a great surprise for my birthday."

Bondarenko, the No.8 seed, was the next player to reach the final, beating Anne Keothavong, 62 75. Bondarenko will be playing a Tour singles final for the fourth time, having won Luxembourg in 2006 and finished runner-up at Hyderabad in 2005 and right here in 2007 (to then-world No.1 Justine Henin).

"Anne played well from the baseline. She was hitting fast and was consistent," Bondarenko said. "I expected to do well here. I felt I played well in Madrid last week and thought I could win here in Warsaw. Two years ago here I lost to Justine in the final. Tomorrow will be tough. I'm not expecting an easy match."

"I enjoyed my experience here," said Keothavong, the first Brit to reach a clay court semifinal on the Tour in 26 years - since before the 25-year-old was even born. "This is my least favorite surface - I'm happy with my performance."

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