It was a day of upsets on Thursday in the semi-finals of the Phillip Island Trophy, with Marie Bouzkova upsetting Bianca Andreescu and Daria Kasatkina pulling off a defeat over Danielle Collins, both in 3 set thrillers.
On a day that had it all, underarm serves, wild momentum shifts, match point saves, it was the lower-ranked players who prevailed to reach the final.
Andreescu is no stranger to matches that go the distance, having endured 19 of the 33 completed matches she has played since the start of Indian Wells in 2019 that have gone to a decider.
This latest one was a roller-coaster of a ride that was unpredictable to the end in what was a rematch of their 2019 Roland Garros first-round encounter, which was won by the Canadian in 3 hours and two minutes, and this time round, they were just a minute shy of equalling that.
Andreescu won 16 of those 19 ties but, against the dogged Bouzkova, her penchant for taking the scenic route backfired.
Despite losing a 4-0 lead in the first-set tiebreak, Andreescu still managed to close it out on her 4th set point, saving one against her.
Bouzkova bounced back to level the match at a set-all, and then proved steadier than Andreescu as she edged the final set, recovering from 1-4 deficit and surviving match points.
Andreescu, seeded No 2 and the 2019 US Open champion, committed 52 unforced errors over the course of the match, 2 of which came on both of the match points she held at 5-4 on Bouzkova’s serve and at the last it was the 13th seeded Czech who prevailed, 6-7(9) 6-2 7-5.
The 20-year-old entered the new WTA 250 event for early losers at the Australian Open after being ousted in the second round of the Grand Slam last week.
Ranked 9th in the world, Andreescu got a bye in the first round of the Phillip Island Trophy and then beat 85th-ranked Madison Brengle in the second round, 83rd-ranked Zarina Diyas in the round of 16 and World No 74 Irina Camelia-Begu in the quarter-finals.
Andreescu is expected to rise to No 8 when the WTA Tour rankings are updated on Monday and is scheduled to stay in Australia to play in the Adelaide International next week.
Daria Kasatkina moved into her first final since 2018 with a three-set win over of Danielle Collins, the 5th seed from the USA, 6-1 6-7(6) 6-2 in emphatic style.
Kasatkina had not reached a final since winning Moscow in 2018, a title run that put the Russian into the Top 10 for the first time.
An extended slump since has seen her fall to World No 75 in the rankings but, since Rome last September, she has quietly put together a 17-6 win-loss record and counting.
The 23-year-old twice came within 2 points of victory in a dramatic 2nd set that featured 10 breaks of serve and the 1st of 3 underarm serves Collins attempted over the course of the day.
The American wheeled out the surprise tactic at a crucial moment , while serving at 5-5, 15-40, and it paid off by saving that break point, although not the game.
Collins also conjured up consecutive underarm serves in her first service game of the deciding set, and was successful with the first but not the second.
Indeed, a much-improved serve was ultimately key to Kasatkina’s win.
During her 2019 dip, it lost much of its bite and was frequently attacked with gusto, but on Thursday Kasatkina struck 10 aces in total, including 2 in a row to close out the win.
For Collins, a maiden final remains elusive and the American has now lost all 5 of her WTA semi-finals following Miami and San Jose in 2018, the 2019 Australian Open and Adelaide 2020.
In Friday’s final, Kasatkina will bid to lift her 3rd WTA trophy in her 6th career final, while Bouzkova is aiming for her maiden title, having lost her first final in Monterrey last year to Elina Svitolina.