RABAT, Morocco -- Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia moved into her first WTA singles final in three years on Friday, staging a first-set comeback en route to a 7-5, 6-2 semifinal victory over No.7 seed Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat.
"It’s kind of surreal standing here, because [Krunic is] a really tough opponent, especially on clay, and I felt that could have gone either way," Tomljanovic said during her post-match interview.
The 24-year-old Aussie had lost her only previous meeting with Krunic, at last year's US Open, but came back from two set points down in the opening set to dispatch the Serb in just over 90 minutes, easing into her first championship match since Pattaya City in 2015.
"It feels great," Tomljanovic continued. "I put in a lot of work to be here; the work is still not done, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow."
25-year-old Krunic had more winners than the powerful Australian, leading by 23 to 16 in that department. But the Serb had a whopping 41 unforced errors during the match, well outpacing Tomljanovic's 24. The Australian was also more lethal on return, garnering 15 break points in the match and converting six of those chances, to win the encounter with relative ease.
Tomljanovic will now attempt to win her maiden WTA singles title on Saturday against No.1 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who dispatched No.8 seed Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei, 6-0, 6-2, in the second semifinal.
Krunic started the match extremely well, garnering an early break at love after backhand errors by Tomljanovic handed her serve to the Serb at 1-1. The No.7 seed progressed to a 5-3 lead, as her variety of shot tended to come out on top over the Australian’s power game at this stage of the match.
Slowly but surely, though, Tomljanovic fought her way back into the tilt. After the Australian held at love to stay within touching distance at 5-4, Krunic struggled with her opportunity to serve out the set, squandering two set points with a backhand error and a double fault, respectively. On her fifth break point of the game, Tomljanovic leveled the match at 5-5 after a weak Krunic drop shot went into the net.
Too many errors started to fly off the Krunic racquet in the latter portion of the first set, while Tomljanovic started to dominate with her return game. At 6-5, Krunic found herself falling behind, and though she saved one set point with a stunning forehand, Tomljanovic converted her second chance when another great service return forced an error from the Serb.
After Tomljanovic had won four straight games to close out the opening frame, the Australian maintained her momentum to start the second set, holding for 1-0 and then breaking Krunic via a backhand service return to lead 2-0, and extending her winning streak to six games.
Krunic finally broke the spell of Tomljanovic by getting back on serve in the next game, after her drop shot prowess forced an error on break point. But following a flurry of five straight breaks during the first six games of the set, it was the aggressive play of Tomljanovic which left the Australian standing tall, claiming a 4-2 lead with a forehand winner down the line.
An easy hold gave Tomljanovic a 5-2 lead, putting her a single game away from her second career WTA singles final. Serving to keep the meeting alive, Krunic pushed a backhand wide to give Tomljanovic double match point. On the next point, a final backhand miscue by Krunic put the Australian into the championship match.