ACAPULCO, Mexico - Two of the WTA's rising stars went head-to-head in the semifinals of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC on Friday, and it was Sofia Kenin who outlasted Bianca Andreescu in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to reach her second final of the season.
From 3-0 down in the first set, the 20-year-old Kenin won six of the next seven games to move ahead in the match, but ultimately came from a late break down in the final set against the 18-year-old Canadian to seal a place against unseeded surprise package Wang Yafan.
"I'm so happy to be in the final," Kenin said. "No matter who you play, you always have a chance to win, no matter what the score is.
"I had a lot of confidence coming here. I knew I was playing well, taking one match at a time, but now that I'm in the finals, I'm going to enjoy it. I'm not going to overthink it...but I'm really excited."
In what was a nervous start early for both players, Kenin lost the first seven points of the match, and served five straight faults en route to losing her first service game to fall behind by the first changeover.
However, Andreescu's early advantage quickly evaporated, as Kenin won the next five games and broke serve twice, as the Canadian struggled with her first serve percentage and consistency over the enusing games.
The World No.71 racked up 14 unforced errors in the first set, just three more than Kenin, but managed to connect on just four winners over the first 10 games of the match.
The tour's leader in victories in 2019, ASB Classic runner-up Andreescu was not easily beaten, as she led for the duration of the second set before delivering the first break in the sixth game.
Though Kenin hit back immediately after quickly building a 0-40 lead, Andreescu righted the ship and sent the match to a decider by edging seven of the last 10 points.
Both players held serve comfortably in the final set until Andreescu broke first, converting on her third break point in the seventh game, but just as she did against former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the previous round, the American responded with aplomb with her back against the wall.
Aggressive play from her forehand side helped Kenin seal her fourth break of serve overall in the match to get back level, and she added a fifth to seal the match in two hours and 15 minutes, grinding past a tiring Andreescu as the final three games extended past deuce.
Fresh off her second three-set match in as many rounds, the Hobart International champion will face a finals debutant in Wang on Saturday, after the World No.65 knocked off No.3 seed Donna Vekic in Friday's first semifinal from a set down.
"I've practiced with her like a few times so I kind of know her game," said Kenin. "She's had a great week and she's playing well, so it's going to be a great match for both of us."