Jasmine Paolini and Anna Blinkova will break their deadlocked head-to-head on a big stage when they meet in Sunday's Transylvania Open final in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Paolini moved into her second career WTA singles final with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No.7 seed Wang Xiyu in a two-and-a-half-hour tussle. Paolini is currently 1-0 in finals after winning her first title on the outdoor hard courts of Portoroz last year.
Blinkova, who came through qualifying to make this week's main draw, upset No.4 seed Anastasia Potapova 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in a match that also took nearly two-and-a-half hours. With the win, Blinkova breaks through to her first singles final on the Hologic WTA Tour.
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Paolini and Blinkova have split their four previous meetings, but Paolini has won the last two, dropping only seven games in those two victories combined.
"It’s never easy to play a final, and it’s never easy to play Anna," Paolini said afterward, looking ahead to the championship match against Blinkova. "She’s an amazing player, she’s very solid, so it’s going to be a tough match. I’m going to do my best, and let’s see what happens.”
Jasmine goes to the final!— Transylvania Open (@TransylvaniaOpn) October 15, 2022
Jasmine Paolini ends Xiyu Wang's brave run in Cluj with a tough 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win, for her first final of the season!#TO2022 pic.twitter.com/SXjPDH30iE
World No.78 Paolini of Italy fought past left-handed Wang with 36 winners, five more than the Chinese player could muster up. Paolini also had nine fewer unforced errors than Wang.
A winning pass gave Paolini a hard-fought one-set lead, but she went 0-for-4 on break points in the hour-long second set as World No.59 Wang leveled matters.
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The topsy-turvy third set saw Paolini up a break at 2-0 and 4-2, but Wang broke back straight away on each of those occasions. Paolini garnered a third break for 5-3 with an error-forcing backhand, and the Italian consolidated at last to wrap up the win.
“I did a very solid performance," Paolini said. "[Wang is] an amazing player, she can hit huge winners and big serves, lefty, so it’s never easy to play with her.”
In the day's first three-set clash, World No.138 Blinkova saw her 5-1 lead in the first set slip away as Potapova won six games in a row to swipe the opener. Blinkova built a 5-2 lead in the second set, and the qualifier was able to hold on that time to tie up the match.
Both players relied heavily on powerful backhands as the third set progressed, and Blinkova took a 5-3 lead with a scorching return winner off of that side. However, Blinkova was unable to serve out the match in the following game.
Blinkova rebounded with a sturdy return game, and a strong crosscourt forehand gave the qualifier double match point. World No.48 Potapova, who won her first WTA title in Istanbul earlier this year, sent a forehand wide on the first match point to cede victory to Blinkova.
"The match was very tough, and [Potapova is] a great player, and it was a very mental victory," Blinkova said afterward. "I cannot even describe how I'm feeling. But I'm so happy to be here in Cluj until the end, I love it here so much, and I'm so happy to be in the final.
"I tried to stay mentally strong and as aggressive as I can as well, and I tried to be courageous, and it helped me to win."