MONTERREY, México - It was a breakthrough day in Monterrey on Saturday, as two emerging stars - Hungary's Timea Babos and Romania's Alexandra Cadantu - made their very first WTA finals at the Whirlpool Monterrey Open, both scoring semifinal wins over very experienced seeded players.
Babos was the first to win, getting past No.2 seed Sara Errani in a two-hour, 27-minute grinder, 64 67(3) 64. Babos showed mental strength beyond her 18 years - she had all kinds of leads in the second set: 4-2, 5-3, even serving for it again at 6-5 - but after missing them all she regrouped for the win. The match was so close, both players won the exact same amount of points: 108.
"I have trouble playing players like Errani, not just because she's so consistent but also because she has so much experience," Babos said. "I served for the match twice in the second set but couldn't finish it, and it was tough to come back and play another set after that, but I was able to do it. I'm so happy.
"This is the best victory of my career so far. I'm happy to keep winning but even more happy to beat the great players I've been beating this week."
Babos' big serve got her out of several jams - she had 11 aces in the match. "My serve was very important for me today. There were times when I got nervous and my footwork wasn't great, so my serve would really help me."
The 21-year-old Cadantu followed with her own marathon win over No.6 seed Greta Arn. After losing a lopsided first set Arn came back in the second set and was leading in the third, 5-3, 30-0 - but Cadantu lifted her game again, winning the last four games to close out a two-hour, 36-minute, 62 46 75 victory.
"I'm in shock. I don't know whether to shout for joy or cry," Cadantu said after the match. "I've been working so hard to get better and doing so well here just gives me even more motivation. I don't even know what to think."
At the start of the week, not many would have picked a final between Babos and Cadantu, ranked No.107 and No.110. Before last week, Babos only had one WTA main draw win, but then made the semifinals of Bogotá and now a final here; Cadantu has been a bigger surprise, given she only had one WTA main draw win before this week. The two have met once before, with Cadantu winning a three-setter on the ITF Women's Circuit last year.