Guangzhou's Comeback Kid Into Final
Published September 20, 2013 12:00
King was down a set and a break to Zheng Jie before rallying to force a third set, then found herself down 3-1 in the third before reeling off five straight games en route to a 36 75 63 triumph in two hours and 33 minutes.
"In the second set I changed my tactics, as my tactics in the first set weren't working," King said. "I started to play higher balls and deeper, putting more balls in the court. I don't think she liked that.
"She's a great player. I wasn't looking forward to playing against her. I'm really happy I came through."
King is no stranger to comebacks this week, having been down 4-1 in the third set of her second round win over Bojana Jovanovski and 61 52 in her quarterfinal defeat of Monica Puig. In fact, she has now won five straight three-setters dating back to her last match of qualifying on Sunday.
"Every match has been really tough and I'm happy I've been able to keep pulling them out," King said.
King will be competing in just her second WTA final Saturday, having won her first in Bangkok in 2006.
"In March I changed coaches because I had not been playing good tennis," King said. "So I'm really happy because this shows that all the hard work I've put in is paying off."
As for Zhang, she routed Yvonne Meusburger, 61 61.
"I am very happy about my game," Zhang said. "I feel I am playing better and better. I've played four players with different game styles, but I managed to play well against each of them. I played very aggressively today, which is big progress for me. I'm very excited to be in the finals of a WTA tournament. This is the best achievement for me as a professional tennis player."
Zhang will come into her first WTA final without having dropped a set all week. She is no stranger to success in Guangzhou, with her previous best WTA outing a semifinal showing here in 2010. She also won the doubles here last year.
King is looking to become Guangzhou's first American champion, while Zhang aims to be its third Chinese winner, though the first since Yan Zi in 2005. In their one previous match-up, King surrendered just one game in the first round of Tokyo in September 2011.
"I've played her once before. I think she's in good form right now," King said. "I watched a little bit of her match today and it seems like wherever she wants to hit, it's going. It's going to be a tough match. Every match has been tough for me. All I can do is try my best, which I've done every day. And I'll be happy if I can do that."
"She is a very smart and hard-working player," Zhang said of King. "She went all the way from qualifying to the final, which is admirable. Her ranking is higher than mine and she has achieved some remarkable success in the past. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, so I just want to play my game and do my best."
Interestingly enough, if King comes through, it will be the second straight week a qualifier has captured a WTA event, with Jovanovski having done so last week in Tashkent. And if Zhang is victorious, it will be the second straight week a wildcard has secured a WTA title, with Lucie Safarova having been crowned last week in Québec City. The last time a qualifier played a wildcard in a WTA final, qualifier Melanie Oudin beat wildcard Jelena Jankovic at Birmingham in June 2012.
"Playing qualifying actually helped me," King said. "I got a few matches in and a little bit of confidence on the courts before going into the main draw."
King also advanced to Saturday's doubles final alongside Galina Voskoboeva. They will take on No.1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. King will be seeking to become the first player to win both the singles and doubles at the same WTA event since Serena Williams did so at Wimbledon in 2012. She admitted all the matches are taking a toll on her body.
"It's not perfect," King said. "Every day I feel something. Yesterday I fell and hurt my ankle a little bit, but it's nothing bad. I'll go out and try my best. I haven't been physically 100% and I haven't been playing 100%, but I've been winning. Just keep fighting hard is the most important thing."