Linda Fruhvirtova’s teenaged promise was in full bloom in front of a vociferous crowd at the SDAT Tennis Stadium on Saturday as she beat Nadia Podoroska 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to enter her maiden WTA Tour-level final.
In a nerveless third-set display, she battled from a break down to edge the two-hour 53-minute contest that is now sure to fetch her a spot in the top-100 for the first time.
“It was the best atmosphere I have ever played in,” said the 17-year-old. “Respect to her [Podoroska]. She played amazing. I never thought I would win a three-setter against her. She made me go over my limits.”
Fruhvirtova will face Magda Linette in the final after the Pole’s opponent Katie Swan of Great Britain withdrew from her semifinal while being 0-3 down in the first set. Swan pulled out owing to illness.
The start of the evening was marked by some frighteningly good tennis. Fruhvirtova’s power stood out, especially from the backhand wing, as she clobbered balls when allowed time and space.
It forced Podoroska, who largely plays percentage tennis and pulls the trigger only when the kill is assured, to up her game. The Argentine used the short angles well and denied Fruhvirtova the chance to dictate from the middle of the court. The Czech had to hit on the run and off-balance, resulting in a fair share of errors.
Podoroska broke in the fifth and seventh games to have two looks at the first set. But just like it had in her quarterfinal against Eugenie Bouchard, a medical time-out for her opponent (exhaustion) threw her off and the score was soon 5-5.
The experienced Podoroska, however, recovered to break and hold in quick succession and pocketed the opening set. And when the 25-year-old broke the Fruhvirtova serve in the opening game of the second stanza, the door had seemingly shut for the youngster.
But the tables turned and Fruhvirtova broke thrice to gallop through the set 6-2. Podoroska fluffed her angles and with not much power in her shots, Fruhvirtova feasted on the short balls.
At 2-2 in the third, the momentum shifted again as Podoroska broke to 3-2. Fruhvirtova called for another time-out, this time to strap her left ankle. But Podoroska didn’t let it affect her and instead shadow-practised on the side where Fruhvirtova was seeking treatment, perhaps to show that she wanted to get on with it.
But her serve remained wobbly. She held to 4-2 after saving a break point but couldn’t manage it two games later as Fruhvirtova restored parity to 4-4.
On the Podoroska serve at 4-5, Fruhvirtova ran up three match points, only the former to erase all, the third with a nonchalant drop.
That, though, remained her last act, as she double-faulted on the fourth match point.