BIRMINGHAM, England - Sunday's going to be a big day, not only with the Premier-level Aegon Classic title up for grabs, but with Rally For Bally taking the courts in Birmingham and across the UK.
Saturday's semifinals at the Aegon Classic saw Ana Ivanovic and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova both score straight set wins, with the No.1-seeded Ivanovic the first to advance, winning nine straight games from 2-0 down in the first set and eventually beating No.9 seed Zhang Shuai in 57 minutes, 6-2, 6-2.
Ivanovic is now through to her 20th WTA final, going 13-6 in her first 19, but more importantly this is her first WTA final on grass, her best previous showings on the surface being semifinal finishes at Wimbledon in 2007 (falling to Venus Williams) and Birmingham in 2011 (falling to Daniela Hantuchova).
This was also Ivanovic's WTA-leading 36th match win of 2014. Carla Suárez Navarro is next with 34.
The second semifinal saw Zahlavova Strycova continue her career-best run, upsetting No.15 seed Casey Dellacqua, 7-6(5), 6-1. From 5-1 down in the first set tie-break Zahlavova Strycova won 10 points in a row and never really looked back to reach the first Premier-level final of her whole career (it's her fourth WTA final overall, but her first three all came at International-level events, going 1-2).
Before this week, Zahlavova Strycova had never even been to the quarterfinals of a Premier-level event. And she'll have to summon up another breakthrough if she's to win this title - she has never beaten anyone ranked as high as the No.13-ranked Ivanovic, her best career wins coming against World No.14s (Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells in 2011 and Roberta Vinci at Miami earlier this year).
After the singles and doubles finals on Sunday, the crowds at the Edgbaston Priory Club will be treated to an all-star Rally For Bally exhibition featuring Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Jamie Murray and Anne Keothavong. There are three Rally For Bally exhibitions going on around the UK on Sunday - Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Martina Hingis, Marion Bartoli, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and Laura Robson will be at the Aegon Championships in London, while Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Greg Rusedski and Colin Fleming are at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
Former World No.1s Hingis and Azarenka were just announced as part of the roster on Saturday.
"Elena was one of us," Azarenka said of the event. "I will always remember our matches, what a fighter she was and how much she loved tennis. We will always miss her. The whole of the tennis world is together in the Rally For Bally, to try to raise as much money as possible for the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis that she was so passionate about, and to fund the ongoing fight against cancer."
The Rally for Bally is a national fundraising effort in memory of former British No.1 Elena Baltacha, known as Bally, who died of liver cancer on May 4. All funds raised will be split equally between the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Foundation, the charity attached to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which Bally set up to help children from all backgrounds play tennis.
For more on Rally For Bally and to donate, please visit www.justgiving.com/RallyForBally.