BAD GASTEIN, Austria - A few years ago they were both among the WTA's fastest rising stars, one going as high as No.11 and the other No.12 - they have since slipped from those lofty rankings but now they both have a shot at regaining some of that momentum, as Yanina Wickmayer and Alizé Cornet will meet in the final of the NÜRNBERGER Gastein Ladies on Sunday.
The No.7-seeded Cornet was the first to win in Saturday's semifinals, losing serve four times but breaking No.3 seed Ksenia Pervak in all nine of her service games to move into the final in just an hour and 22 minutes, 62 62.
"I played really well, my best match of the week I think," Cornet said. "I don't think Ksenia liked my game too much but I'm happy to go through in two sets. It'll be a great final - I'll be stressed, and Wickmayer is a great player, but I've taken a lot of confidence from this week and I'll be more than ready."
The No.2-seeded Wickmayer had a tougher go of things but still managed to get through, rallying from 3-1 down to take a marathon 81-minute first set then winning a more routine second set to make it past Mandy Minella, 76(3) 63.
"It was very tough today - it was very hot out there and she played a great match," Wickmayer commented. "I just tried to stay strong and stay positive and keep fighting, and I'm happy to get the win. It's always nice to go all the way to the end of a tournament and I'm very excited to be in the finals."
Minella was playing her first WTA semifinal and was the first player from Luxembourg to reach a WTA semifinal since Anne Kremer at Seoul in 2004.
Wickmayer and Cornet are among the younger crop on the WTA - both just 22 - but after peaking a few years ago they are both trying to work their way back up the rankings. Wickmayer set a career-high of No.12 in 2010 (she is now No.37); Cornet got to No.11 in 2009 (she is now No.73); needless to say, a title in Bad Gastein could help propel either one back towards those heights.
Neither player has a winning record in WTA finals, Wickmayer going 3-4 (her titles coming at Estoril and Linz in 2009 and Auckland at the beginning of 2010) and Cornet going 1-3 (her lone title coming at Budapest in 2008).
As if their careers weren't parallel enough, the pair's only previous meeting was a razor-thin victory for Wickmayer at Luxembourg back in 2009. The Belgian remembered that one: "I played against her a few years ago but it was hard and indoors, so it will probably be different tomorrow," she said. "It was a tough one today and I had to play well - I hope I can do the same tomorrow."