MOSCOW, Russia -- 17-year-old Russian wild card Anastasia Potapova engineered a stirring comeback in the quarterfinals of the Moscow River Cup on Friday, fighting back from a set and a break down to overcome her compatriot Valentyna Ivakhnenko, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, and advance to her first WTA semifinal.
Potapova, who won the girls' singles title at Wimbledon in 2016, was blitzed in the opening set but steeled herself to complete a resurgent victory, outlasting qualifier Ivakhnenko in one hour and 36 minutes. The teenager won nearly 70 percent of points on her opponent's second serve, including going 4-for-4 on those opportunities in the second set.
The wild card became the second 17-year-old to advance to her debut WTA semifinal at the Moscow River Cup on Friday, following Olga Danilovic's stunning straight-set upset of No.1 seed Julia Goerges earlier in the day.
Potapova will now face the winner of the last semifinal to be contested on Friday, between Laura Siegemund of Germany and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.
It was all Ivakhnenko in the first set, as the qualifier used her stellar defense to extend points and draw her teenaged opponent into errors. Ivakhnenko had six winners and six unforced errors in the opening frame, while Potapova fired 12 unforced errors to only three winners.
Ivakhnenko quickly zoomed to a 5-1 lead, and crushed a winner off her solid backhand side to give herself a second set point of the game. There, Potapova sent a service return wide to hand over a one-set lead to the 25-year-old after 26 minutes of play.
The second set was up for grabs, as Ivakhnenko twice went up a break, only to be immediately broken back in the very next game by Potapova. The 17-year-old ended up stopping a run of four straight breaks of service by obtaining a crucial hold for 4-3.
The tables fully turned in the following game when Ivakhnenko sent a backhand error long at 30-30, giving Potapova a break point. The wild card took advantage, powering a service return deep and forcing a forehand mistake into the net from Ivakhnenko, putting Potapova up 5-3. The youngster held serve in the next game, and suddenly, the match was level at one set apiece.
Having finished the second set by winning the last four games, the momentum was squarely with Potapova as the decider commenced under light rain. The teenager pounced right away, breaking Ivakhnenko in the first game of the third set after Ivakhnenko’s formerly sturdy backhand went awry on break point.
By this juncture, Potapova amped up her aggression, finding clever winners down the line when she could, while Ivakhnenko faded as the match progressed. Potapova galloped to a 4-0 lead before Ivakhnenko could hold serve and get on the board in the following game.
Potapova was untroubled the rest of the way, and though Ivakhnenko saved one match point at 5-2 with a forehand winner, Potapova converted her second opportunity after an Ivakhnenko backhand went into the net, giving the delighted teenager the chance to fight another day.
More to follow...