PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Mihaela Buzarnescu celebrated a landmark birthday with a milestone on the tennis court at the J&T Banka Prague Open.
The No.7 seed, celebrating her 30th birthday, advanced to her second final of a breakout season in comeback fashion over Italy's Camila Giorgi, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
The World No.37 had to work hard against the big-hitting Italian in two hours and 25 minutes to advance to a championship match against No.2 seed Petra Kvitova, as she won the last three games after Giorgi served for the match.
"She's such a powerful player - it's so hard to play against her because she takes the ball so fast and she is so fast, so it was a really hard match," Buzarnescu said on-court after the match.
"I was so happy I was able to win - it's a lot of stress, because I have my birthday today. At 4-5 in the final set, I said to myself, 'Come on, you can do it.' I never stopped believing."
The contrast in styles was evident over the course of the pair's first career encounter, as the court craft of the Romanian lefty eventually won out against the all-out attack of the 26-year-old Italian.
After losing the first three games of the match, Buzarnescu roared back to level at 3-3 - at one stage winning 11 straight points - but it was the World No.58 who has the last response in the opening set.
Though Buzarnescu dug out of a 0-40 hole in the eighth game to hold, she was unable to repeat the feat her next time at the line, as Giorgi built another 0-40 lead and converted her first set point with a deep return that the Romanian couldn't handle.
The second set proved to be the reserve of the first as it was the Romanian who stormed out to an early lead, taking advance of a more erratic Giorgi to break twice and move ahead 4-0.
The Italian tried her best to push back, winning the next three straight games, but the No.7 seed reasserted her authority with a love hold in the eighth game, and toughed out a six-deuce marathon battle to earn her third break of the set to send the match the distance.
In the decider, neither player could grasp hold of any extended momentum, as Giorgi broke twice to move ahead only to see her elder foe hit back on both occasions.
A love break in the ninth game saw Giorgi toe the line in an attempt to reach her sixth career WTA final, but Buzarnescu never allowed her to reach match point - and won 12 of the last 16 herself to reach the championship.
"I cried before the match as I got too emotional," Buzarnescu said of her exhausting afternoon. "Because she's playing fast, and the game was fast, it could have been even longer - but I can feel it in my body that it was long."
The No.7 seed will next face hometown favorite Petra Kvitova, who reached the final with her fourth straight sets victory in four matches played this week, as she looks to win her first career title.
"I am extremely happy to play against Petra, even though crowd will be on her side," Buzarnescu said. "I watched these players on TV not long time ago and now I have the chance to play against them."