PARIS, France - Marion Bartoli is now one step away from winning her first WTA title on home soil, beating Klara Zakopalova in straight sets in the semifinals of the Open GDF SUEZ. Standing between her and the Premier title will be Angelique Kerber, who is going for her first WTA title - anywhere.
Bartoli, the No.2 seed this week, had barely scraped through her quarterfinal win over No.7 seed Roberta Vinci - she was down 4-1 second set and 5-2 third set but managed a 46 64 76(2) win. Things were tricky early on against the unseeded Zakopalova in the semifinals too, as she quickly fell behind in the first set, facing a 5-2 deficit and double set point as she fell behind 15-40 on her serve. But she kicked into high gear from there, saving those set points then winning 11 of the next 12 games, running away with a 76(3) 60 victory.
"Klara was playing incredibly well early on and it took me a while to get things sorted out," Bartoli told reporters after the match. "In the end the match was a lot easier to control than yesterday's. She was a little less solid than my opponent yesterday and when she saw I was putting more pressure on her serve, she began to crack and didn't manage to come up with any answers.
"I didn't have any aches or pains from yesterday but my muscles were still a little bit stiff, which is expected when you play on hardcourts."
Bartoli is France's No.1 by far, currently ranked at No.7 - there are five more Frenchwomen in the Top 100, but you have to go to No.62 to find the next one.
All seven of Bartoli's WTA titles have come outside of France, although she has reached one final on home soil, at Strasbourg last year (losing to Germany's Andrea Petkovic). The 27-year-old is 7-9 in her career in WTA finals.
Now she will face another German for this title. The No.9-seeded Kerber, who took out No.1 seed Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, had a big fight on her hands in the second semifinal of the day, losing the first set and having to rally from 3-1 down in the third set to edge Yanina Wickmayer, 67(2) 63 64.
"When it was 1-3 in the third set I just told myself to play it point by point and fight for every ball," Kerber said. "I think in the end there were only two or three balls that made the difference, because both of us were playing very well."
Kerber is seeking her first WTA title. She has only been to one final before, at the International-level clay court tournament in Bogotá in 2010 (losing to another home player in that final, Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia). Kerber is the first German into the final of Paris since 2001 (Anke Huber) and is trying to become the first player from Germany to win it since 1995 (Steffi Graf).
"In my first final I was very nervous, but now I won't be thinking it's a final, I'm thinking it's the next match," Kerber said. "I will just give my best."
Bartoli has beaten Kerber in straight sets in their last three meetings. Kerber won their first meeting back in 2003, when Bartoli wasn't even in the Top 50 (and Kerber didn't even have a ranking); since then Bartoli has taken over.
"Marion is at home here and will be fighting like she has the last matches," Kerber said. "But it's my second final and I will go out there tomorrow and just try to enjoy it and give it my best shot. I really have nothing to lose."