Qualifier Anastasia Potapova reached her third Hologic WTA Tour final, and first in four years, at the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship Istanbul with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Yulia Putintseva in 1 hour and 57 minutes.
The second semifinal saw No.3 seed Veronika Kudermetova ease past defending champion and No.2 seed Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-3 in 1 hour and 23 minutes.
Potapova had reached her first two finals as a 17-year-old rookie in her third and fourth WTA main draws respectively, coming runner-up to Olga Danilovic at the 2018 Moscow River Cup and to Margarita Gasparyan at Tashkent 2018. But she has struggled with consistency and injury since, undergoing ankle surgery in 2020, and prior to this week had not reached a tour semifinal since Jurmala 2019.
The 21-year-old entered Istanbul ranked No.122, a far cry from the career high of No.64 she set in Jul. 2019. But she impressed with fuss-free aggression to defeat Petra Martic and No.7 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets, and has now achieved the feat of reaching all three of her WTA finals while ranked outside the Top 100.
Against Putintseva, it took a set for Potapova to find a consistent groove. In the opener, she committed 14 unforced errors in the opener compared to 12 winners. However, a dead net cord return garnered her the breakthrough for 3-1 in the second set, and from there Potapova didn't look back.
Across the second and third sets, Potapova struck 21 winners to just nine unforced errors. Meanwhile, Putintseva was sharp on big points, converting all four of her chances and saving 12 of the 18 she faced. But the Kazakh's touch on the dropshot and lob, which had been key in previous rounds, was less present in the semifinals.
Putintseva racked up an uncharacteristic 24 unforced errors, and although demonstrated her trademark moxie to save the first eight match points she faced, another errant dropshot attempt on the ninth got Potapova over the line.
"When you want something really bad, you want to do whatever it takes," said Potapova afterwards. "I'm trying to keep myself ready for anything."
Kudermetova continues strong season with first win over Cirstea
Kudermetova will contest her fifth career final and third of 2022 following Melbourne Summer Set 1 in January, where she was runner-up to Simona Halep, and Dubai in February, where she fell to Jelena Ostapenko.
This season has also seen the 23-year-old reach her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Indian Wells, and her 2022 victims include Naomi Osaka, Garbiñe Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka and Marketa Vondrousova.
Highlights: Kudermetova d. Cirstea
Kudermetova had fallen at this stage of Istanbul last year to Elise Mertens, and had lost both of her previous encounters with Cirstea. The World No.29 rectified both of those stats in style. After an exchange of breaks early in the first set, she dominated on serve; from 2-2, Kudermetova did not face another break point, while capturing the Cirstea serve three more times.
Kudermetova will be bidding for her second career title following Charleston 2021, while Potapova is seeking her first WTA trophy. The pair have played once before, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 victory for Kudermetova in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 quarterfinals in January.