PALERMO, Italy - There wasn't much in it between Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Laura Robson in the semifinals of the XXV Italiacom Open - except for the serve, maybe. The experienced Czech had her delivery in check and ultimately battled past the young Brit and into the final of the clay event.
Robson's run to the semifinals was already exceptional - she was just the second British woman since 1992 to reach a WTA semifinal, joining Anne Keothavong (who has done it seven times in that span); and after cruising through the first set, 6-2, she seemed headed to becoming the first British woman since 1990 to reach a WTA final (Jo Durie did it at Newport that year).
But Zahlavova Strycova stayed even in the second set, 1-all, 2-all, 3-all, 4-all and 5-all - and right when Robson had a point to hold in the 5-all game the No.8-seeded Czech pounced, winning seven points in a row to take the second set. She then cruised through the third set for a 26 75 62 comeback victory.
"I had a bad start today, but I fought point by point and really tried to stay in the match," Zahlavova Strycova said after the match. "The key moments in the match came at 4-all in the second set - at that moment I felt like Robson started to struggle in the match, and I started playing better and better from there."
Zahlavova Strycova finished the match with clean serving numbers, seven aces to four double faults; Robson finished with four aces and 18 double faults.
The second semifinal also saw an early match turnaround - Irina-Camelia Begu stormed out to a 3-1 first set lead, but No.1 seed Sara Errani rebounded in a huge way, winning 11 of the next 13 games to record a 64 61 victory.
"I didn't start well today - I was a little nervous at the beginning of the match," Errani said afterwards. "Today's match was my hardest of the week so far.
"I'm very happy to be in the final of this tournament. I like Palermo, I like this tournament, and all the people and staff here are always so nice to me. To win the title here like I did in 2008 would be a wonderful thing for me."
Errani leads Zahlavova Strycova in their head-to-head series, 2-1, though this will be their first meeting on clay, which could favor Errani - Errani has won four of her five career titles on clay, including three clay court titles this year, while Zahlavova Strycova's only career title came indoors on hardcourts.
"I've been playing fantastic on clay this season," said Errani, who also reached her first Grand Slam final on clay at Roland Garros this year. "I've won three titles and reached the final in Paris. I hope to continue that form here."
Zahlavova Strycova's day wasn't finished after her semifinal with Robson, either - at night she came back on court and, as top seeds with Renata Voracova, won the doubles title, beating second seeds Darija Jurak and Katalin Marosi, 76(5) 64. It was Zahlavova Strycova's 17th WTA doubles title and Voracova's eighth; it was their second WTA doubles title together (after Linz in 2010).
"I've played a lot this week in singles and doubles, but I don't think I'll be tired tomorrow," Zahlavova Strycova declared. "I'll be fresh until Monday."