A first-time WTA singles champion is guaranteed at the Grand Prix Son Altesse Royale La Princesse Lalla Meryem after Lucia Bronzetti and Julia Grabher notched semifinal victories on Friday.
Bronzetti and Grabher, both unseeded at the WTA 250 clay-court event, will face each other for the first time at tour-level on Saturday, as they both seek their first WTA singles title. They have split their two previous meetings at ITF Challenger events.
Italy's Bronzetti needed only 61 minutes to ease past No.2 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States 6-1, 6-1. Bronzetti reached the Rabat semifinals last year, but now she is one round further thanks to her swift win over 2017 US Open champion Stephens.
The event marks a huge turnaround at tour-level for World No.102 Bronzetti. The Italian, who peaked at a career-high No.50 in January, had lost her last 10 tour-level main-draw matches before her run this week.
Bronzetti and Stephens each had a matching 11 winners in their semifinal showdown, but Stephens was undone by 22 unforced errors, while Bronzetti only had eight unforced errors.
Bronzetti never faced a break point all day as she took the win and advanced to the second WTA singles final of her career. Bronzetti previously reached the final on home soil in Palermo last year, where she finished runner-up to Irina-Camelia Begu.
By contrast, Grabher had to go down to the wire before reaching her first career WTA singles final. In a clash between two first-time WTA semifinalists, Austria's Grabher outlasted Julia Riera of Argentina 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes.
World No.74 Grabher becomes the first Austrian to reach a WTA singles final since Yvonne Meusburger won the title at Bad Gastein in 2013.
Grabher dominated with her heavy forehand to take the first set, where she hit nine winners to none from Riera. Grabher was two points away from a 4-1 lead in the second set as well.
Sweet Relief 😅— wta (@WTA) May 26, 2023
Julia Grabher survives a thrilling final set tiebreak to reach her first tour-level final, defeating a spirited Riera 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6) in Rabat!#WTARabat pic.twitter.com/ULlCrb07WH
But from that 6-1, 3-1 deficit, World No.195 Riera rallied her way back into contention. The Argentine, playing in the first WTA main draw of her career this week, reeled off five games in a row to collect the second set.
Riera grabbed an early break for 2-1 in the third set, but Grabher broke at love for 4-4 en route to a decisive tiebreak. In the breaker, a deft lob winner allowed Riera to save a match point at 6-5, but Grabher used more powerful forehands to clinch the next two points and seal the win.