OEIRAS, Portugal - Carla Suárez Navarro got some good old fashioned revenge on Kaia Kanepi in the semifinals of the Portugal Open in Oeiras on Friday afternoon, beating the Estonian in straight sets in a rematch of a heartbreaking loss in the final of the International-level event a year ago.
Last year Suárez Navarro had all kinds of chances before losing to Kanepi in the final, 36 76(6) 64 - a 63 53 lead, two match points in the tie-break, even another 4-2 lead in the third - but the Estonian kept fighting back, eventually sneaking out the title. But this time Suárez Navarro was in a league of her own, losing the first two games of the match but then taking 12 of the next 15, barely letting Kanepi settle into the 23-minute second set and running away with a 64 61 victory on Centre Court.
"I had last year's match in my mind," Suárez Navarro said. "She started so strong today and I was a little bit nervous, but after the first few games I changed a few things and played well the rest of the match - I was really concentrated on returning well because she serves so well, and I also had some really good points on my serve. I was aggressive and very focused in the most important points.
"I'm happy to be in the final again - it's another chance at the title."
Suárez Navarro is actually after her first WTA title - she is 0-4 in WTA finals, having finished runner-up at Marbella in 2009 (losing to Jelena Jankovic), Marbella again in 2010 (losing to Flavia Pennetta), Oeiras last year (losing to Kanepi) and Acapulco earlier this year (losing to Sara Errani).
Kanepi was impressed with Suárez Navarro's play and her own, as well - after all, this is just her third tournament back after missing the first three months of the 2013 season with an Achilles injury.
"Of course I'm very happy I played three good matches here and made the semifinals - I'm getting used to the matches again," Kanepi commented. "But today I felt like I had nothing to hurt her. Carla was playing really well, and I wasn't playing so well. She was just better today - all credit to her."
Kanepi has some pretty big points to defend coming up - last year at the end of the clay court season she reached the semifinals of Brussels and the quarterfinals of Roland Garros - but then she missed almost four months of action, not playing until September, so after that stretch it's all gravy.
"I hope to keep playing well and improve match by match," she said. "If I have enough clay court matches and feel good, I think I can actually defend the quarterfinals at the French Open - but it really depends on the draw. I might not be seeded there this year, which could be difficult for me."
Awaiting the No.4-seeded Suárez Navarro in the final is No.3-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who won her semifinal earlier in the day. Pavlyuchenkova is 4-0 lifetime against Suárez Navarro.
"Nastia is a difficult player - I just lost to her in Cincinnati last summer," Suárez Navarro said. "But tomorrow is another match, another surface, and I'm happy to be playing her one more time."
Suárez Navarro is projected to bounce back into the Top 20 if she wins the title on Saturday.