BUDAPEST, Hungary - Elena Vesnina arrived in Budapest on Monday with just four wins to her name this season. Four days and four wins later she stands on the verge of her maiden career title.
After defeating Marina Erakovic in Friday's semifinal, Vesnina will take on Sara Errani with both the Italian's 14-match unbeaten run and the Budapest Grand Prix title on the line. However, despite Errani's imperious record on the red dirt this year - her streak is the longest since Dinara Safina won 16 on the spin back in 2009 - the Russian is unlikely to be overawed by the challenge in front of her.
Vesnina's run to the final in the Hungarian capital has seen her chalk up wins over three seeds and all without dropping a set. The latest upset saw the World No.78 oust her doubles partner and No.5 seed Erakovic in a confident display of attacking clay court tennis.
"In our previous encounters, Marina played more aggressive," Vesnina said. "Today she was trying to exploit my mistakes and move me around and play the spin. I didn't expect that but luckily I still found the key to win."
After racing through the first set, Vesnina was forced to dig deep in the second, securing the crucial service break in the final game to close out the match, 62 64.
"In the second set, we both played more rallies and longer games. There were some weird bounces, maybe by the breeze coming from the river, and I lost some concentration. But, then, I recovered and managed to win the match."
Despite both turning pro a decade ago, Vesnina and Errani will be facing one another for the first time on Saturday. It will also be Vesnina's first final for more than a year, and she is relishing the opportunity to compete for a singles title once more.
"Sara is in a great form and the clay surface is her specialty," she said. "I'm really looking forward to that match. It's going to be a real challenge for me. We never played each other before, I'll just try to do my best and win the title."
Ominously for Vesnina, though, Errani's performances have improved as the tournament has progressed. And in her semifinal Errani served up a clay court master class to dismantle a clearly fatigued Anna Tatishvili.
Less than twenty-four hours earlier Tatishvili had emerged triumphant from a grueling three-setter against Aleksandra Wozniak, and from the outset it was clear Errani was intent on testing her powers of recuperation, stretching her from side to side in a succession of energy-sapping baseline exchanges. Tatishvili had no answer to these brutal tactics and slumped to a 62 61 defeat after barely an hour on court.
"It was not easy as the score suggests," Errani said. "She played a good match, she played strong but maybe she was a bit tired after the long match she had yesterday. Because of that, I tried to make the games longer by moving her on the baseline."