Unseeded Czech Katerina Siniakova powered past No.6 seed Zhang Shuai to book a spot in the final at the Japan Women’s Open Tennis, where she’ll face 7th seed Christina McHale for the title. Neither player has won a WTA title previously, so it will be a big day for both.
It’s been a banner year for the 20-year-old Siniakova, who continues to inch closer to a Top 50 berth. Earlier in the season, Siniakova posted her first appearance into the third round of a Grand Slam at Wimbledon, then backed up her results by reaching her first WTA-level final at the Ericsson Open in Bastad.
Now, two months later, Siniakova has kept her momentum going strong and booked a spot into her second career WTA final.
The Czech faced a stern test against No.6 seed Zhang, the highest-ranked player left in the draw. The two players traded breaks seven times during a tense first set, but Siniakova kept Zhang under pressure. The Chinese player won just one point behind her first serve all set long, and Siniakova took every break point that came her way – a perfect seven out of seven. She fired two aces in the final game to serve out the opening set in commanding fashion.
Siniakova broke three more times and rattled off the next six games in a clinical display of aggressive baseline play to see off Zhang 6-3, 6-0.
No.7 seed McHale had a more difficult road to the Japan Women’s Open Tennis final, needing to battle through her fourth three-set match of the tournament against Jana Cepelova.
The momentum swung back and forth between the two players throughout the match, with McHale and Cepelova splitting sets and trading breaks twice in the third set. Cepelova’s aggressive returning kept the American under pressure, but McHale kept her cool – the Slovakian player brought up seven chances to get another break off of McHale but couldn’t convert on any.
McHale broke Cepelova in the final game to take the match 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and book a spot into her first WTA final since March 2014.