Third-seed Tatiana Golovin of France overpowered India’s Sania Mirza on Saturday to set up a meeting with Czech Nicole Vaidisova in the final of the AIG Japan Open women’s singles.
Golovin, a 25th-ranked player who defeated local star Ai Sugiyama in the quarterfinals, breezed through the first set before her eighth-seed opponent staged a brave comeback, only to fall 6-2, 6-4 at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
The rising Indian star struggled against the blustery conditions on center court but reeled off a series of strong winners to rally from a 5-0 deficit in the second set.
After a rain delay with Golovin leading 5-2 to give time to close the roof, Mirza came within 5-4 as the crowd screamed out cheers of “Come on Sania!”
Mirza, ranked 37th in the world, broke her opponent twice in the final set but in the end the 17-year-old Frenchwoman capitalized on a series of unforced errors.
The 18-year-old Mirza knocked down a number of winners with a powerful forehand cross that Golovin said she had to adjust her game to ward off a fierce challenge.
“She hits her forehand cross so hard and they are difficult to hit back. I had to play my own game and somehow she started to make unforced errors, but that’s how tennis goes,” Golovin said.
Asked whether she felt like a visitor in Tokyo with all the chants of “Sania,” she said, “It’s important for the crowd to get into the match and she’s a good player, so she was able to get the crowd going and it’s great. I just heard the call of Sania and turned them into calls of Tatiana.”
In Sunday’s final, Golovin will face Vaidisova, who she lost to in the second round at last year’s Japan Open.
“I lost against Nicole last year, but we both have more experience and I feel more confident. It will be a tough match but hopefully both of us have improved.”
Vaidisova overwhelmed fourth-seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-4, 6-2 to book the other spot in the final.
Vaidisova, ranked 21st, blasted her 26th-ranked opponent, deploying an effective serve with consistent baseline play to dictate the match.
The 16-year-old broke Kirilenko three times in the first set and went ahead 3-0 in the second. She took a 40-15 lead in the final game before Kirilenko sent a forehand cross wide to hand her the victory.
“I played better today than yesterday but I still have a lot to work on. Tomorrow, no matter what I do, I’ll be 100 percent,” said Vaidisova.
In the men’s draw, fifth-seed Croatian Mario Ancic walloped German Bjorn Phau 6-2, 6-1 to book his first Japan Open final spot, against unseeded Wesley Moodie of South Africa, a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) winner over seventh-seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.
Moodie went ahead 4-2 in the final set, only for Nieminen to break in the eighth game and take the South African to two match points before 98th-ranked Moodie forced a tiebreaker.
In the women’s double final, top-seed Shinobu Asagoe of Japan and Venezuelan partner Maria Vento-Kabchi went down 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to second-seed pair Kirilenko and Gisela Dulko of Argentina.