World No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska has put smiles onto the faces of Tennis Auckland officials by making it to tomorrow's final of the ASB Classic.
She will meet Yanina Wickmayer, who beat Mona Barthel in the first semifinal earlier today, in the final.
There was always the worry that Radwanska, the poster girl player for the tournament, would fail to make it far into the week, as was the case with Maria Sharapova a couple of years ago, but there have been no such problems over Radwanska, who beat American Jamie Hampton 7-6 7-6 today.
The semifinal was gripping, with Hampton again playing well above her world ranking of 70, but it was at the crucial moments where Radwanska's quality and her opponent's inexperience shone out.
However, Hampton can be proud of what she has achieved in Auckland, including this semifinal.
Her big serve meant that Radwanska was often on the back foot in the points and, although she gets more balls back than most, the American was usually able to blast a forehand to some unreachable place on the court.
Radwanska was struggling to hold serve for most of the first set and it eventually broke in the 11th game.
Serving in the next game, Hampton had a set point but disastrously for her she double faulted and that's an opportunity you can't miss out on against a player of Radwanska's quality.
Buoyed by that mistake, Radwanska won the next two points and then took the tiebreak 7-4.
Coming so close to taking a set against the top seed affected Hampton mentally and she quickly fell behind 4-0 in the second set.
However, composure was then recovered and she pulled both breaks back and like the first, the second set went into a tiebreak.
Once again Radwanska stood up when it mattered, winning it 7-3 to secure her place in the final.
Earlier, Wickmayer beat Barthel in a match that lasted just over an hour and three quarters and saw both players have their good and bad moments, especially Wickmayer in the second set where she was broken three times and dropped it in just 20 minutes.
However, the match tightened up in the third set with both players producing high quality tennis.
But Barthel served two double faults in the tiebreak - the tennis equivalent of signing your own suicide note - and Wickmayer took advantage of her opponents' slip-ups by winning the tiebreak 7-3.
This was Wickmayer's first real test at the 2013 Classic, as she'd played against opponents of significant lower quality on her way to the final four.
However, she showed enough composure to win this match and make the final, emulating her feats in 2010 and 2011.
Whether she has the quality to beat Radwanska tommorow is another matter.
The top seed has looked head and shoulders above everyone else this week
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is it fair on the tennis pros to ask them to play in Melbourne's 40 degree heat?Related story: (See story)