LEXINGTON, KY, USA - For the first time in her career, American Jennifer Brady will contest a WTA singles final, thanks to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over compatriot Coco Gauff in the semifinals of the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics.
The 25-year-old was previously 0-3 in WTA singles semifinals, but was largely dominant over the course of 71 minutes on Saturday to break new ground in her career and set up a meeting with two-time WTA champion Jil Teichmann for the inaugural title at the event.
"I've been working really hard since the beginning of the year. I've been putting in a lot of hours on the practice courts and in the gym, and hopefully, everything just falls into place," Brady said after the match.
"Reaching a final at any tournament, I think, is a great opportunity. I've given myself the best opportunity, and hopefully, I come out and play well tomorrow."
The highest-ranked player among the four unseeded semifinalists at World No.49, Brady had a near-perfect day on serve over the course of the match, as she dropped serve only once and served eight aces.
Particularly, Brady sparkled in the second set, as she went a perfect 14-for-14 on points played behind her first serve, and dropped just four points in five service games.
"I've been working a little bit on all aspects of the serve, mainly the stroke and the timing of the serve," Brady said. "More technique, things like that. If I’m able to serve well, I’m able to start the point aggressive and start in my favor, looking for forehands and being in control of the point from the very first shot.
"I think that puts more pressure on my opponents for them to serve better in their service games, so if I continue to just keep serving well and playing aggressive, I've just given myself the best opportunity to win the match."
Though Gauff held serve first in each set to lead 1-0, the teenager never led from then on. Brady was the first to break in mirror fashion - taking Gauff's service games in each set to lead 2-1 - and held on for victory from then on.
Clutch tennis on break points also helped the elder American's cause: though each player created eight break point chances in the match, Brady converted four, while Gauff managed just the one.
"Jenny just played a great match, and I can take away a lot from this week in general. I couldn't have asked for a better week back," Gauff said in defeat. "I feel like today was the best that I was striking my forehand all week, so that's something I can take away from this.
"Her serve is great. She hits her targets really well. In particular today, she was hitting both her serves pretty well. I was just trying to get them back in the court, but it didn't work out. She’s definitely Top 5 on my list [of servers on tour], at least of people I've played so far."
Something is set to give in the final, as neither Brady nor Teichmann have dropped a set over the course of their runs to the final.
The pair split two meetings last season, with Brady scoring a three-set victory at the Western and Southern Open, while the left-handed Teichmann ended the season with a victory at the WTA 125K series event in Limoges, France.
"I actually enjoy playing lefties. They have their serve, and I don't mind the serve on the ad-side, when it's coming wide," Brady assessed. "I've played Jil quite a few times. I think we know each other's game styles very well and I think it'll be a good match.
"Regardless of the outcome - I'm going to show up, give my best and see what happens - but it's very ideal for me to get a lot of matches before the US Open. I'm really pleased with the week so far."