WTA Rising Star Kurumi Nara rose from the ashes in the semifinals of the Citi Open, rallying from a first set blowout to grind past a very in-form Marina Erakovic.
WTA Staff

WASHINGTON DC, USA - Kurumi Nara pulled off a rare kind of comeback in the semifinals of the Citi Open on Saturday, rallying from a 6-0 first set to reach the final of the International-level event.

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For the first half hour it looked like one way traffic for Marina Erakovic. The New Zealander won the first set, 6-0, and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set. But Nara finally got on the board with a break of serve and eventually won six of the next eight games to sneak through the second set, 6-4.

Erakovic had her chances again in the third set, jumping out to another 2-0 lead and, after losing three straight games from there, winning two games of her own, and with Nara falling behind 0-30 on her service game at 3-4, she knew it would take one last momentum shift to pull the match out.

And that's just what came - Nara conjured up that momentum shift, reeling off 12 points in a row to run away with it at the end, closing out the two-hour-and-six-minute marathon, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Erakovic had won one of their previous meetings by a 6-0, 6-0 scoreline before, and that entered into the young Japanese's mind. "I was fighting in the first set but it wasn't working, and at the end of the set I was thinking, 'Oh no, the second time it will be 6-0, 6-0,'" she said. "But after the first set my coach told me I had to calm down and relax, and move my feet more, and it really helped me today."

Nara is now through to the second WTA final of her young career, having reached her first on the clay of Rio de Janeiro earlier this year - there she defeated Klara Zakopalova for her first WTA title.

She'll try to become the sixth Japanese to win multiple WTA titles, after Kazuko Sawamatsu, Etsuko Inoue, Naoko Sawamatsu, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Ai Sugiyama. Date-Krumm leads with eight.

Awaiting Nara in the final will be No.6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who upset No.2 seed Ekaterina Makarova at night, 6-3, 6-2. By seed it was an upset, but given the head-to-head - Kuznetsova had won three of their four previous meetings, including both hardcourt meetings - it wasn't a huge surprise.

Kuznetsova will be going for her first WTA title since winning San Diego almost exactly four years ago. The two-time Grand Slam winner and former World No.2 holds a 13-20 career record in WTA finals.

Kuznetsova and Nara will be playing against each other for the first time.