17-year-old Anastasia Potapova sealed her place in her maiden WTA final after upsetting world number 90 Tamara Zidansek in the semifinals of the 2018 Moscow River Cup. The Slovenian, who seemed ill during the match, had called for a medical time-out in the opening set before she opted to retire at 2-5 down in the deciding set, gifting the Russian youngster a place in the biggest match of her senior career.
Potapova fired 26 winners to a bulk of 29 unforced errors while Zidansek was more erratic out on the court, misfiring on 36 occasions which proved costly eventually. The Russian is the first player born in 2001 to reach the Championship stage of a WTA event before Olga Danilovic became the second to do so in a matter of hours after she took down seventh seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich in three sets.
Zidansek overcomes slight wobble to take the opening set
A string of four backhand errors gave Potapova the worst start into the match possible, with the Russian handing Zidansek the breakthrough in the opening game. The Slovenian was firing on all cylinders and booming with confidence after her terrific run which saw her defeat second seed and title favourite Daria Kasatkina and clay-court specialist Laura Siegemund en route to the last four.
Zidansek was playing some extremely clean tennis and refused to blink — so much that she did not make an unforced error through the first four games. Within a blink of an eye, the world number 90 was leading 4-0 with Potapova being unable to find any solutions. A quick service hold finally saw the Russian getting onto the scoreboard and it seemed that an unbelievable comeback was on the cards.
Zidansek committed nine unforced errors within the space of just three games and Potapova soon found herself trailing by a solitary game. She started to find her game and dictated play with her commanding backhands, threatening to return level but made untimely errors on the important points as Zidansek stopped the rout by saving multiple break points to hold for 5-3. Potapova’s inability to convert those break points seemed to affect her confidence, and she was ultimately broken while serving to stay in the set, allowing the Slovenian to be just a set away from her maiden WTA final.
Potapova fights back for a deciding set
Potapova started the second set in the best possible way, a complete contrast as compared to the first set. She fired a forehand winner on break point and broke serve for the second time in the match to grab the early lead. The Russian had to overcome some tough resistance from Zidansek and Potapova had to dig deep to consolidate the break for a two-game advantage.
Soon enough, the 17-year-old jumped out to a commanding double-break lead, and we seemed to be heading towards a deciding set. However, Zidansek was determined not to fade away and instead continued to give it her all. Four consecutive breaks of serve followed but the higher-ranked player soon found herself serving to stay in the set at 3-5 down.
She displayed some great mental strength when she narrowly held serve having saved four set points in the process, while Potapova seemed to have felt the nerves while being just an inch away from taking the set. However, the Russian was finally seventh-time lucky as she converted it with another forehand winner.
Potapova triumphs for a place in the final
Riding on her momentum, Potapova continued to stroll through the encounter and stormed to claim the break in the opening game of the deciding set. The youngster was booming with confidence and getting pumped up as she took the lead and looked like the favourite to grab the win.
Zidansek had the golden opportunity to return level on the scoreboard but failed to convert her opportunities as Potapova displayed her fearless playing style on the important points, firing a daring backhand down-the-line winner on break point en route to holding serve for a 3-1 lead. That hold proved crucial while the Slovenian continued to remain in contention, coming from 0-30 down to hold serve and lessen the huge deficit.
A string of winners then saw Potapova break serve to love in the seventh game, and opening up a double-break advantage which came alongside the perfect chance to serve out the match at 5-2 up. However, in an abrupt manner, it was announced that Zidansek could not continue competing and was forced to retire just before the Russian served the match out.