NURNBERG, Germany -- Tamara Zidansek booked a spot in her first-ever WTA singles final on Friday after the unseeded Slovenian upset No.2 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, 7-6(4), 6-2 in the semifinals of the Nurnberger Versicherungscup.
"I feel fantastic," Zidansek told the media, after her victory. "I’ve been working hard to be where I am, and I’m aiming even higher. But right now I feel really good about the final tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it."
World No.68 Zidansek has been one of the quickest improvers on the WTA since cracking the Top 100 less than a year ago, reaching three semifinals within that timeframe. The Slovene finally blasted past that barrier, using fabulous forehands to thrice come back from a break down in the first set en route to ousting 43rd-ranked Siniakova after one hour and 23 minutes of play.
"I was just trying to stay aggressive," said Zidansek. "I started really good, but [Siniakova] fought back. Then I had to dig deeper, and I found what I was looking for."
Zidansek converted five of her nine break points during the clash, helped by winning 74 percent of points off of Siniakova's second serve. Siniakova had four aces, compared to none for Zidansek, but those were negated by the Czech's five double faults.
A first-ever WTA champion will be crowned in Nurnberg on Saturday, as Zidansek will face another player seeking her first WTA singles title. No.1 seed Yulia Putintseva will be her opponent, after the Kazakh got past Sorana Cirstea in two tough sets earlier on Friday. Putintseva lost in both of her previous WTA finals, at 2017 St. Petersburg and 2018 Guangzhou.
Zidansek and Putintseva played once before, three weeks ago on clay in Rabat. Zidansek won that match in three sets. "It was a hard match, a three-setter, so I’m not expecting anything different tomorrow, and it’s going to be fun," said Zidansek.
"It would mean a lot, it would be my first WTA title, but I know the opponent, I know it’s not going to be easy, and I’m going to do everything I can," the Slovene concluded.
Zidansek won the first two games of the tilt before Siniakova roared back to win three games in a row, turning her break deficit into a break lead at 3-2. There, the Czech served well to queue up double game point, and blasted a backhand winner to convert her second chance and hold for 4-2.
Siniakova fired an ace on game point to hold for 5-3, but the Zidansek forehand started to find its efficacy at this juncture, and the Slovene used that wing to get to 5-4. Serving for the set, Siniakova blinked, and Zidansek ended up on the winning end of rallies to pull back to 5-5.
The Czech took advantage of errors from Zidansek to reclaim her break in the following game, earning a 6-5 lead after punching a volley winner on her second break point. But Zidansek fought back once more, forcing an error with a rally forehand on her fourth break point of the game to pull level again, and move the opening frame into a tiebreak.
Zidansek opened the breaker with another forehand winner, and took firm control after Siniakova double faulted to hand the Slovene a 4-2 lead. Another fierce forehand pulled Zidansek to 5-3, and a long return by Siniakova subsequently handed the unseeded player three set points. On her second chance, Zidansek crushed a forehand crosscourt to clinch the one-set lead.
Spurred on by her first-set comeback, Zidansek took a commanding lead in the second set. The Slovene took advantage of Siniakova’s double fault on break point of the opening game, and powered her way to a second break and a 3-0 lead with blistering service return winners. Zidansek tore to 4-0 after another routine hold, putting her near to a first-ever WTA final.
Siniakova finally got on the board, holding for 4-1, but Zidansek inexorably marched to the victory, as the Slovene never faced a break point in the second set. Holding double match point at 5-2, Zidansek fired a huge serve to set up a forehand winner, and clenched her fists in delight as she realized she was into the championship match at Nurnberg.