BAKU, Azerbaijan - Prior to touching down in Azerbaijan for this week's Baku Cup, Julia Cohen had won just one WTA main draw match. Five days and four wins later, she stands on the verge of her maiden title.
Her latest victory came on Friday, when she saw off Russia's Olga Puchkova over three grueling sets. In a match that contained no shortage of epic rallies - including one lasting 41 strokes - or service breaks, it was the American who kept her cool in the afternoon heat to eventually prevail after over two and a half hours on court.
After splitting two topsy-turvy sets, Cohen made the first move in the decider, securing an early break to move 4-1 ahead and within touching distance of the final. Puchkova - who had earlier received treatment on an injured right ankle - battled back bravely, reducing arrears to 4-3 before eventually succumbing, 36 60 63.
After seeing Jovanovski struggle past World No.213 Aleksandra Krunic in the quarterfinals, Panova could have been forgiven for casting one eye ahead to the final. And the early exchanges, in which she carved out a break point in the opening game, gave little indication of the one-sided match that would follow.
However, this was to be the only chance offered up by the Serb, who was near faultless for much of the next hour and 10 minutes, romping home a 62 62 winner.
A few hours later, Panova's day went from bad to worse as, alongside partner Nina Bratchikova, she was dumped out of the doubles in straight sets by Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva. In the other semifinal, Eva Birnerova and Alberta Brianti defeated Cohen and Sacha Jones.