NANCHANG, China - No.6 seed Zheng Saisai reached the first International-level final of her career at the Jiangxi Open on Saturday, as she battled past compatriot Zhu Lin in the semifinals, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
The 24-year-old is a three-time champion on the doubles circuit, having captured three career titles and made six finals overall, but she had never reached a tour-level singles final before Saturday's effort.
Zheng finished her quarterfinal match near midnight on Friday as the last match to take the court, a result of a pair of lengthy quarterfinals - including Zhu's upset victory over top seed Zhang Shuai.
She was back on court for the second semifinal on Saturday, and needed nearly two-and-a-half hours and a third three-setter to improve her head-to-head against her fellow 24-year-old from China to 4-0.
"It was really tough, because yesterday I played very late, but everyone is here to support us," Zheng said on-court after the match. "I'm very happy to get into the final for the first time."
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Zheng nabbed a break to begin and end the opener, as she was only tested on serve in a lengthy fourth game in which she saved four break points - Zhu's lone chances on return in the set.
In the second set, however, the World No.137 was near-perfect on the chances she held, breaking a total of four times on five chances in the set and winning nearly 70% of points played on return.
After the pair traded service games to begin, Zhu ripped off the last five games of the set to send a match between the two to a decider for a third straight time.
The lower-ranked Chinese woman's momentum continued into the final set, as she ran her streak of games won to seven and moved ahead by an early break.
However, that proved to be the last games she'd win in the match, as the No.6 seed dropped a moral bagel to advance to the final.
The No.6 seed, on the comeback trail from an extended injury break which saw her miss months from last year's US Open through to this Match, has reached two singles finals in WTA 125K tournaments this year, and four overall in her career.
She will face No.3 seed Wang Qiang in the first all-Chinese singles final in the tournament's history, guaranteeing a third straight champion from the home country at the event and a first-time WTA title-winner.
The two have split four career meetings, but Zheng claimed a three-set victory in the first round of Wimbledon last month, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.