TAIPEI, Chinese Taipei - No.2 seed Timea Babos overcame sterling resistance from the unseeded Naiktha Bains to complete a seeded sweep of victories in the Taipei OEC Open quarterfinals, moving into the last four 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 20 minutes.
Throughout the match, the Hungarian - a former champion here in 2015, as well as in the WTA Tour event in the same city in 2018 - repeatedly threatened to pull away after gaining leads with her superior weight of shot, but World No.291 Bains competed resourcefully to peg her higher-ranked opponent back almost every time until the very end of the match.
An immediate break of the Briton's serve enabled Babos to build a 4-1 lead in the first set, only to lapse into error as Bains found the mark with her own forehand power to level at 4-4. However, serving to stay in the set it was Bains who was unable to keep the ball in play, sending a forehand long on Babos's first set point.
Undaunted, the 21-year-old began to turn her fortunes around with some judicious net forays, taking a quick 2-0 lead in the second set. Though World No.104 Babos hit back with three games in a row and held two break points to move up 4-2, Bains would stave both off with more big forehand strikes - and then came through a four-deuce mini-tussle, chasing a dropshot to nail a brilliant pass on the penultimate point, to regain her lead, this time sustaining it to capture the set three games later.
In a virtual rerun of the first set, the decider saw the former World No.25 power to a 3-0 lead before finding her lead cut away by some top-notch hustling and defence from Bains, who squared the score at 3-3. But once again, it was Bains's consistency that was found wanting at the business end of the set, with a serve-and-volley attempt going awry to concede the break again to Babos in the eighth game. Serving for the match, the 26-year-old kept her focus to hammer down a series of unreturnable serves and one-two punches to move into her biggest semifinal of 2019, having previously reached the last four of the Cagnes-sur-Mer ITF W80 event and Vancouver W100 event, as well as the final of the Ilkley W100 tournament.
Next, Babos will meet No.8 seed Viktoriya Tomova after the Bulgarian dispatched Dalila Jakupovic 6-0, 7-5 to reach the biggest semifinal of her career to date. After coming through a marathon five-deuce opening service hold, 24-year-old Tomova would concede only two further points in a one-sided opening set - but had to come back from a break down three times before eking out a more competitive second set.
Meanwhile, the top half of the draw saw straightforward victories for No.1 seed Danka Kovinic, who defeated Kyoka Okamura 6-3, 6-0 in one hour exactly, and No.3 seed Vitalia Diatchenko, the 2014 champion here, who needed only 65 minutes to dismiss former World No.50 Jana Cepelova 6-1, 6-1.