BRISBANE, Australia - With a place in the biggest final of her career on the line, World No.27 Lesia Tsurenko needed just 65 minutes to dispatch US Open champion and No.2 seed Naomi Osaka to reach the championship match of the Brisbane International, 6-2, 6-4.
Appearing in the semifinals at the Premier-level event for the second time in her career, the 29-year-old Ukrainian No.2 pulled off a a stunning reversal of the match the pair played in the quarterfinals of the US Open in September to reach the biggest final of her career to date.
Tsurenko won just two games inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and never broke serve in a match which lasted under an hour in New York, but won four of Osaka's service games and never lost her own inside Pat Rafter Arena on Saturday afternoon.
"I was a little bit nervous at the beginning and at the end, but in general, I'm really happy with my performance. For me, the key was to stay aggressive and to serve well, to give good direction on each serve," Tsurenko said on-court after the match.
"I was trying my best to do it because I knew if I do a little bit of mistake on serve, she will just kill it. It's a really nice win for me."
— WTA (@WTA) January 5, 2019
The win over the World No.5 is the second Top 5 win of the Ukrainian's career, and comes at the venue where she made her career breakthrough six years ago: in 2013, she made the semifinals as a lucky loser before losing to that year's runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Tsurenko needed four match points to seal victory, as Osaka served three aces and carved out a fine dropshot winner to keep the match alive in the ninth game, and ultimately put the semifinal match in the books after 65 minutes.
With a clean 20 winners and 14 unforced errors off the ground, Tsurenko also served at a 76 percent clip for the match to go along with six aces, and saved both break points she faced in the second set.
"I just really enjoy playing," Tsurenko added. "I think when you enjoy, you also find that even the tough moments of the match are kind of exciting.
"I was just focused on every point and thinking about every shot like it's the most important one. I don't want to say that this was my best tennis, but it was quite a high level."
Having never held a lead, Osaka's best chance to get back in the match came as she built a 15-40 lead in the sixth game but ultimately proved unable to effectively counteract Tsurenko's counterpunching over two sets, as she totaled 26 unforced errors to 22 winners.
Contesting a WTA final for the fourth straight year, and fifth time overall, in the first week of 2019, Tsurenko will face either former champion and No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova and Croatia's Donna Vekic.
"I'm sure I will watch it because it's always on my TV in my room...and [to] have some ideas about how to play tomorrow," she assessed.
"They're both playing so well and they are so confident. In some ways, they play very similar, I would say. They like to take advantage with the serve. I think that it will be a big challenge for me anyway."