OSAKA, Japan - Until a few weeks ago, no Brit had reached a WTA final in 22 years. And now - just a few weeks after Laura Robson broke the drought with her run to the final in Guangzhou, China - Heather Watson has done the same in Osaka, Japan, winning a very tight semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
In a battle between two of the more consistent young players on the WTA, Watson battled Misaki Doi for over two hours, coming from 3-1 down to take the first set in a tie-break and reeling off eight points in a row from 5-all in the second to finish off the Japanese lefty in front of her home crowd, 76(2) 75.
Before this week, Watson's best WTA results were three quarterfinals, all last year, at International-level events in Auckland, Memphis and Québec City.
"I had played Misaki a few times before and today was definitely the best she's played against me - especially her forehand, she was giving it a really good hit," Watson said. "I knew it would be tough and I just tried to stay as focused as I could because it was so close, and every point could make a difference."
Before Robson and Watson, the last Brit to make it to a WTA final was Jo Durie in Newport all the way back in 1990 - before either Robson or Watson was born. The last Brit to win a WTA title was Sara Gomer at Aptos back in 1988.
"I'm very excited for tomorrow - all the hard work and long hours have been for this, for WTA titles," Watson said. "I've played a few doubles finals before, so I have a little experience, but it will be different playing singles. I'll do my best."
The second semifinal yielded a big surprise, as Chang Kai-Chen stunned No.1 seed Sam Stosur, 64 46 76(3). Stosur came out firing, winning the first three games, but that wasn't indicative of what the rest of the match would be like at all, as the two players duked it out for two hours and 23 minutes - Chang was two points from losing the match serving 5-6 and deuce in the third set but won eight of the next 10 points to win that game and take control of the breaker.
Chang's win over the No.9-ranked Stosur was her second-best career win, following a stunner at Tokyo in 2009, beating then-No.1 Dinara Safina.
Just like Watson, Chang's best WTA results before this week were three quarterfinals - Kuala Lumpur and Osaka in 2010 and Birmingham this year.
Chang will now try to become the third player from Chinese Taipei to win a WTA title, following Wang Shi-Ting (who won six WTA titles during the mid-1990s) and Hsieh Su-Wei (who has won her first two WTA titles this year).
Watson and Chang will be playing each other for the first time.
Later Saturday, Watson won her doubles semifinal with Kimiko Date-Krumm, and the No.4-seeded pair will now play No.1 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears in the final. Watson is trying to become the first Brit to win the singles and doubles at the same WTA event since Anne Hobbs in 1985.