Niculescu's First Final, Azarenka Awaits

Monica Niculescu's fantastic fall season has brought her another breakthrough in Luxembourg.

Published October 22, 2011 12:00

Niculescu's First Final, Azarenka Awaits
Monica Niculescu

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Monica Niculescu and Anne Keothavong went toe to toe for over three hours in the hopes of reaching their first WTA final, but in the end obviously only one could advance - and it was Niculescu.

Watch Luxembourg all week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!

Both players had been to WTA semifinals plenty of times before but neither had ever converted on the opportunity - the 24-year-old Niculescu was 0-3, the 28-year-old Keothavong 0-6 - but in the end the younger player had just that little bit more gas left in the tank, winning 12 of 13 points from 3-all in the third set to close out a three-hour, two-minute marathon on Centre Court, 75 46 63.

"I was really dead but I used all my powers to stay out there and play one more point," Niculescu said. "It was an unbelievable match. The crowd was behind me and there were so many Romanians behind me. It was an unbelievable feeling. I've had a great year and I'm so happy I'm in the final in Luxembourg."

Niculescu's last outing on the WTA led to the biggest result of her career, the semifinals of the Premier-level stop in Beijing. Along the way there she scored her first Top 10 win over Li Na. Now she is in her first career WTA final.

Keothavong fell to 0-7 in her career in WTA semifinals - but she is the only Brit in the last 19 years to reach even a single WTA semifinal, let alone seven.

"I'm obviously gutted I couldn't make the final today," Keothavong commented afterwards. "Monica's unique in her own way. You never know what's coming next, which is why she's so difficult to play. With all of the slices and moonballs you really have to choose the right moments to be aggressive - sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. It's tough to lose this match but what can I do?"

Following Niculescu into the final was No.1 seed Victoria Azarenka, who had a simpler 63 63 win over No.6 seed Julia Goerges, losing her serve once in each set but breaking a total of five times en route to the comfortable victory.

"It was a long wait today - the girls before played really long!" Azarenka said. "I knew Julia would give me a tough battle and there were a lot of close games. I'm glad I was focused during the important moments and was able to win."

"It wasn't too bad, but Vika was too solid for me today," Goerges said. "My energy wasn't good for the whole match. It was always four good games, then two not so good games... she's too consistent for that, she's a top player. You have to be more consistent. That's why I lost three and three."

While Niculescu will be in her first WTA final, Azarenka will be in her 15th - she is an even 7-7 in the first 14. This is her first final since Madrid in May.

Azarenka leads Niculescu in their head-to-head series, 3-0.

"I played her in juniors and a couple of times on the WTA. She's a very tricky player," Azarenka said of Niculescu. "She's a very big fighter and I know it will be tough, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge tomorrow."

"I hope I can recover," Niculescu said. "It has been a heck of a week. I've played so many hours on the court, so much tennis. I hope I can do a good final."

Share this page!

Related news

  • Li Na's Retirement Press Conference

    September 21, 2014
    Li Na met the press on Sunday for the first time since announcing her retirement from professional tennis. Read about it and watch the press conference right here!
  • Azarenka To Miss Rest Of 2014

    September 21, 2014
    It's been an injury-plagued year for Victoria Azarenka, and the two-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 had even sadder news for her fans on Sunday.
  • WTA Rising Star Pliskova Wins Seoul

    September 21, 2014
    Karolina Pliskova served up the second WTA title of her blossoming career, grinding past first-time WTA finalist Varvara Lepchenko to win the Kia Korea Open.
To The Top