Dominika Cibulkova and WTA rising star Donna Vekic both rallied from a set down to reach the BMW Malaysian Open final. The 17-year-old Vekic is hoping for third time lucky...
WTA Staff

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Dominika Cibulkova and Donna Vekic rallied from a set down in the BMW Malaysian Open semifinals to set up an intriguing clash for the title at the International stop.

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The No.7-seeded Vekic was the first of the two to advance, dropping the first set in just 21 minutes but going right to work from there, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and 2-0 in the third en route to a 16 63 64 victory against the No.2 seed, Zhang Shuai. It was the pair's first career meeting.

"It was actually funny - in the first three games I think I won just one point," Vekic said. "I was so shocked. She played very well, but I was just a bit lost on the court - it was a bit embarrassing, really.

"At the end of the first set I thought, 'Are you going to start playing or are you going to break Tomic's record for quickest match?' I'm happy I managed to turn it around there. I started hitting it a little bit harder and attacking her forehand a little more, and she started making some mistakes out there.

"I was able to keep fighting today and I'm glad I managed to come back and win the match."

Vekic is now through to the third WTA final of her career, having finished runner-up in her previous two at Tashkent in 2012 (to Irina-Camelia Begu) and Birmingham in 2013 (to Daniela Hantuchova).

"It's amazing, because I didn't have a great start to the year," Vekic commented. "Until a couple of weeks ago I couldn't win a match, and now I'm in another final. So I'm really happy about that.

"You know what they say, third time lucky, right?"

The No.1-seeded Cibulkova battled almost two and a half hours and withstood an impressive 17 aces to beat No.3 seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova in the second semifinal, 67(3) 63 63.

"I have to say today I wasn't feeling 100% on the court," Cibulkova said. "But every day is different and every day you have to find a way to win. Today was just about fighting and finding my rhythm."

No one has done more winning on the tour this year than Cibulkova - this was her WTA-leading 24th match win of the year, two more than the next player on the list (Agnieszka Radwanska has 22).

"I'm playing so well this year. I think it's because I'm just trying to enjoy myself on the court," Cibulkova said. "Sometimes today it wasn't happening for me, but I'm glad I could get through it."

The Slovak will be playing in her 11th WTA final, going 4-6 in the previous 10.

Cibulkova beat Vekic in their only previous meeting.