NURNBERG, Germany -- Alison Riske won two matches on Friday and was rewarded with her first final appearance of 2018, as the unseeded American claimed a 6-3, 6-1 semifinal win over Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium at the Nurnberger Versicherungscup.
"I feel like [a final's] been a long time coming, and I definitely haven’t had it easy, I feel like, in the last year as far as results go," Riske told the media afterwards. "So it’s very exciting to be back in a final, and I’m just excited to be playing in it. "
After advancing past an injured Sorana Cirstea in a morning quarterfinal, Riske took down Flipkens, who was also playing her second match of the day, in a dominant 62 minutes. If Riske was fatigued from her nearly two-hour quarterfinal, she didn't show it -- the American won 81 percent of points on her first serve, and was never broken in the match.
"When the supervisor told me it was a 1:30pm start tomorrow, I got so excited because I can sleep in!" Riske laughed, when asked about the oft-delayed schedule. "Honestly, it wasn’t anything out of the norm: we have tough training days back home, which kind of prepare us for this situation. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t horrible."
Riske will go for the second title of her career -- and her first since 2014 -- when she faces Johanna Larsson of Sweden in the championship match on Saturday. Larsson overcame No.8 seed Katerina Siniakova in three sets in the earlier semifinal. Riske leads the head-to-head 2-0, but the two have never played on clay.
"It’s going to be tough," said Riske. "[Larsson] definitely likes her clay courts, and she is playing awesome this week. I think it’s going to be a battle, and I’m just looking forward to a good final, for sure."
Riske was on song with her backhand throughout the entire match. The American claimed the first break of the match at 2-2 in the first set with a backhand service return expertly passing the net-rushing Flipkens, and from there, Riske was off to the races.
The American had no problems holding serve and staying in front of Flipkens, and the Belgian quickly found herself facing a set point while serving down 3-5. Another backhand service return by Riske breezed past Flipkens, and the American had the one-set lead.
The momentum was firmly with Riske at this point, as Flipkens was facing a loss mere hours after battling past two-time Nurnberg champion Kiki Bertens in a two-and-a-half-hour quarterfinal tussle. Riske raced to triple break point when the Belgian was serving down 1-2, and a forehand winner gave the American a break advantage in the second set.
After a love hold by Riske for 4-1, Flipkens stepped to the line, hoping to keep herself in touching distance. In a five-deuce game, Flipkens held multiple game points, but Riske’s aggressive play was too solid on the day, and on her third break point of the game, the American broke for 5-1 -- once again with a backhand service return winner.
Riske had no problems closing out the match in the next game, advancing to the final when Flipkens sent a forehand miscue long. It will be Riske’s first showing in a title match since she reached the Shenzhen Open final in the very first week of 2017.