Donna Vekic of Croatia serves the ball to Zhang Shuai of China during their semi-final match at the BMW Malaysian Open on April 19, 2014. Vekic won 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. – AFP Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: Young tennis sensation Donna Vekic of Croatia did not let the rain ruin her day.
The 17-year-old Vekic made a sizzling comeback to pack off second seed Zhang Shuai of China 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the women’s singles final in the rain-delayed BMW Malaysian Open at the Royal Selangor Golf Club on Saturday.
The reward for world No. 93 Vekic is a showdown against tournament favourite and world No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Cibulkova had to dig deep into her reserves to pull the rug from under defending champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-7, 3-7, 6-3, 6-3 in an epic semi-final battle that lasted for two and half hours.
This will be Vekic’s third final appearance since turning pro four years ago – but one that she’s bent on winning, having lost her two previous WTA finals – in Birmingham (in 2013) and Tashkent (in 2012).
If Vekic wins on Sunday, she will be the youngest player to be crowned the Malaysian Open champion.
Vekic got off to a slow start against Zhang Shuai, and that was understandable as she had to wait for hours before her scheduled match started.
She was a complete washout in the first set as Zhang Shuai, a member of China’s Asian Games gold medal-winning team, dominated play to win 6-1.
Just when everyone expected Vekic to be blown away in the second set, the Croatian picked herself up to produce an awe-inspiring display and turn the tables on Zhang Shuai to win 6-3.
In the decider, a composed Vekic began hitting strongly and cut down on her mistakes to fend off a late charge by Zhang Shuai and earn her third final appearance in her budding career.
Vekic admitted that the opening set “broke my confidence” but was thrilled that she managed to overcome the disastrous start.
“It was actually funny. I managed to get only one point from the first three games. I was shocked and Zhang Shuai played really well. I felt helpless and could not do anything right ... I was feeling very embarrassed,” said Vekic.
“At the end of the first set, I told myself that if I continued like that, I would only end up breaking my racquet ... that’s how frustrated I was.
“Fortunately, I managed to turn things around and took a 5-0 lead in the second set. I started to hit the ball stronger and she began making mistakes.
“It is indeed amazing to make my third finals, considering that I was hardly winning any matches at the start of this year. Now, I’m in the final and I hope to be third time lucky.”