MEMPHIS, TN, USA - Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson continued her love affair with the Memphis International on Friday, battling into her third career final of the International event with a 63 75 win over Italian veteran Alberta Brianti.
The last time Arvidsson and Brianti met, at Carlsbad last summer, Arvidsson squandered five match points in a marathon 06 76(5) 76(7) loss. This time there was no hesitation for the 28-year-old Swede, who cruised in the first set then pounced when she needed to in the second set, breaking in the second-to-last game and serving up a love game to close out the 31-year-old Italian.
"Alberta is a good player. She has a good slice and her down-the-line forehand is really good," Arvidsson said. "The key to the match today was serving well and trying to be the first one to take control of the rally. I wanted to make her move, not the other way around. And when it got to 5-all, I knew I had to be the one to really hit the ball - she wasn't going to lose the match today.
"This is what you practice for, to play these matches, to be in WTA finals."
Memphis has been Arvidsson's best event by far on the WTA - this is her third final here, winning it in 2006 (where she beat, among others, a 15-year-old Caroline Wozniacki) and another final in 2010 (losing to Maria Sharapova). She has won 17 career matches in Memphis, far more than her next-best events (nine wins in Québec City and four at both the Australian Open and Miami).
"I just like indoor hardcourts a lot," she said. "And there's a different kind of atmosphere here too. It feels like home. I have my own parking spot because I won here. Normally I play better when I'm having more fun somewhere."
Arvidsson is 1-2 overall in finals, 1-1 here in Memphis and 0-1 in Québec City (finishing runner-up to American Amy Frazier back in 2005).
Brianti proved 30-somethings aren't about to slow down anytime soon this week, taking out No.2 seed Ksenia Pervak en route to the semifinals and putting up a tough fight against Arvidsson. "I made a few mistakes myself today, but I have to be happy about my week," she said. "I played well in Paris a few weeks ago and had some good matches here too, so I'm feeling more confident now. I'm hoping to get into the Top 50 and hopefully win another title soon, too."
Facing Arvidsson for the title on Saturday night will be No.4 seed Marina Erakovic, who nearly let a 61 30 lead slip her by, eventually rallying from a break down in the third set to beat Russia's Vera Dushevina, 61 46 64.
"I had a lot of chances to finish it off a lot easier, but Vera's a very good competitor and stayed tough. When I won that last point it was a lot of relief and happiness," Erakovic said. "I even told myself to keep focus and stay on the gas pedal - sometimes nerves get the better of you, and that's not the first time that has happened to me, but I'm glad I could regroup and win this one."
Erakovic's only previous WTA final came at Québec City last year, finishing runner-up to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. She is going for her first title.
"Marina beat me easily the last time we played," Arvidsson said. "She's a good player - big serve, big forehand. It's going to be a tough match but fun too."
"Sofia's similar to Vera. She's solid, hits a clean ball... she has obviously won this tournament before too," Erakovic said. "She's a very good player."