No.9 seed Ons Jabeur kept her winning streak going in dramatic fashion, saving a match point and reaching her second consecutive WTA 1000 final with a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia semifinals on Saturday.
Last week’s Madrid champion Jabeur fired a forehand winner on the sideline to erase Kasatkina’s match point at 5-4 in the third set. Jabeur went on to extend her career-best run to 11 straight match-wins with the 1-hour and 55-minute triumph in Rome.
"Very happy to back that other final in Madrid," Jabeur said afterward. "It's never easy to play [Kasatkina]. I know this surface kind of suits her very well because it's slow and she likes it. She was playing really well this week. It was a tough one for me not being 100 percent there. Pretty glad that I got the win and finals again."
Jabeur meets Swiatek in final: Somebody's winning streak will come to an end in Sunday’s final, where Jabeur will face World No.1 Iga Swiatek. Defending champion Swiatek defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the earlier semifinal to notch her 27th straight victory.
Jabeur has won two of her three meetings with Swiatek. Swiatek won their first match in 2019, but Jabeur has won the last two, including at Wimbledon last year. This will be their first meeting on clay.
Clay-court mastery: Jabeur has won her last four meetings with Kasatkina, after dropping their first two. Jabeur has won each of her clay-court showdowns with Kasatkina, which both came this year. Jabeur topped Kasatkina in straight sets on the indoor clay of Stuttgart last month.
The victory continues a brilliant season for Jabeur on the dirt. She has won 17 clay-court matches this season, which leads the tour. Jabeur is also the first player to reach three clay-court finals on tour in a single season since Simona Halep in 2017.
Jabeur is now a win away from becoming only the third player to win the titles at both Rome and Madrid in a single year, after Dinara Safina in 2009 and Serena Williams in 2013.
"I knew that physically I could handle anything," said Jabeur. "Believing that I could play even four weeks in a row, I can do it. I am exhausted, yes, but it's part of my job. It's going to help me push more tomorrow. There is only one match left. I gave it all from the first round, now I should really continue giving my best."
Tale of the match: Jabeur is now 21-0 this season when she wins the first set. The victory was also the first time since 2013 that Jabeur has won a match after saving match point.
"It means a lot to me, especially mentally, that I could come back from a match point and prove that I did that today," Jabeur said. "Hopefully I can keep being stronger mentally, because I know [the final] tomorrow is all about mental."
At 4-4 in the opener, Jabeur slammed a forehand winner to earn a crucial break and serve for the set. Jabeur was forced to save two break points in that game, but she held on, taking the one-set lead with 16 winners.
Kasatkina regrouped in the second set, using her stellar defense and taking advantage of untimely drop shot errors by Jabeur. Kasatkina broke Jabeur twice in the set as she leveled the clash.
Jabeur missed out on her first seven break points in the third set, but she broke Kasatkina for 4-2 with a forehand winner at the end of a long rally. However, Kasatkina surged back again, winning more all-court rallies to reel off three straight games and serve for the match at 5-4.
But the forehand winner by Jabeur on match point in that game spurred on the No.9 seed, and she broke for 5-5 with another winner on the sideline, this time a drop shot.
"I have no idea what happened that game," Jabeur said during her press conference.
One thing is for certain: Jabeur grabbed the last three games of the match, completing her comeback with one final drop shot winner.