No.1 seed Ons Jabeur advanced to her 13th career Hologic WTA Tour final, and third of 2023, with a hard-fought 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 win over Nadia Podoroska at the Ningbo Open in 1 hour and 51 minutes.
The Tunisian will face Diana Shnaider, 19, for the title after the World No.85 triumphed in an all-teenage semifinal 6-4, 6-1 over Linda Fruhvirtova, 18. Shnaider was contesting her second tour-level semifinal following Hamburg in July, and booked her place in her first career final in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Jabeur had needed to overcome both a brilliant start by Podoroska and an injury scare in the second set. The No.87-ranked Argentinian, who was playing her fourth career semifinal and bidding for a maiden final, raced out of the blocks with a series of winners to take an early break lead.
But Jabeur responded well, coming up with cross-court sprints, sliced backhand passes and one breathtaking exchange at net to turn the set around. Podoroska kept the pressure on, but the three-time major finalist took control by winning seven out of eight games from 2-0 down.
Jabeur's momentum was halted after an awkward jump into a backhand winner in the second game of the second set. With her movement visibly hampered, Podoroska rattled off six straight games of her own to level the match. But after a medical time-out at the end of the set, Jabeur delivered a focused performance in the decider. The final three games of the match saw Podoroska's level dip for the first time as the 26-year-old lapsed into a slew of errors.
Shnaider triumphs in all-teenage tussle over Fruhvirtova
Shnaider underlined her status as one of 2023's most exciting breakout players after reaching her first career final in just her ninth tour-level main draw. This time last year, she was ranked No.217 and had just started her freshman year at NC State University. Now, Shnaider is guaranteed a new career-high inside the Top 70 after another impressive week that also featured her second Top 20 win over Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals.
This was the first meeting between Shnaider and Fruhvirtova at pro level, but the younger Czech had won their only junior meeting 6-1, 6-2 in Stockholm back in 2018. Fruhvirtova, who claimed her maiden title in Chennai just over a year ago, started in much the same vein, taking an early 2-0 lead.
From then on, though, Shnaider turned up the heat in irresistible fashion. Her left-handed forehand was the star shot of the day, and she was able to unleash it with phenomenal power and sharp angles.
Highlights: Shnaider d. Fruhvirtova
In a contest that pitted Shnaider's offense against Fruhvirtova's rock-solid defense, the former also impressed with her ability to stay patient but aggressive in a number of longer exchanges before out-manoeuvring the latter.
Shnaider wobbled briefly in attempting to close out the first set, needing five set points to get over the line as she began decelerating on her shots. But once it was under her belt, the second set was one-way traffic.
Shnaider is the sixth teenager to reach a WTA final in 2023 so far, following Coco Gauff (Auckland, Washington, Cincinnati, US Open), Linda Noskova (Adelaide 1, Prague), Maria Timofeeva (Budapest), Noma Noha Akugue (Hamburg) and Ashlyn Krueger (Osaka).