Anhelina Kalinina of the Ukraine reached the second WTA final of her career with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 defeat of Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova at the Italian Open on Friday.
The winner then gave a shout-out to her country, invaded by Russia last year, as she moved into the title match at the Foro Italico.
“It’s absolutely important to try and win every match, (considering) what Ukraine is going through,” she said.
“I hope I can give a small light and maybe some positive emotions to my country.”
The number 47 will play for the title against either Jelena Ostapenko or Elena Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion.
Kalinina will be the lowest ranked finalist at the tournament since 1986 and will rise to her equal career-high ranking of 28th.
It took her nearly three hours to go through in a match played 72 hours after she won another marathon in the quarter-finals.
“I don’t feel my legs, I’ve played so much tennis last couple of days – all three-setters,” the winner said.
“I’m barely walking but I’m happy to be able to go through. I need to recover for the final, the tournament is still not over.
“It’s an amazing feeling battling to go through. Competing at this level is new for me.”
The Ukrainian dominated the third set after a back-and-forth battle in the earlier chapters on the clay.
Kalinina saved eight break points over two games in the first set before finally taking a 4-3 lead with a break to love.
Kudermetova stayed in touch, delivering two aces to trail 4-5, with Kalinina subsequently broken as she tried to serve out the set.
But the Ukrainian came good on a second chance, winning it 7-5 after 66 minutes thanks to 18 unforced errors from her opponent.
The second set began with a pair of love holds before Kudermetova handed over a break for 3-2 to Kalinina from a long forehand.
The Ukrainian who lost her only previous WTA final two years ago in Budapest was broken to love while serving for the match, with a recharged Kudermetova taking a 6-5 lead.
She quickly captured one more game after winning 16 straight points to throw the match into a deciding third set.
Kudermetova saved three break points but fell short on a fourth to lose serve in the opening game of the third set as she went down to defeat.