Hobart | It’s a Mertens versus Navarro final

Top-seeded Elise Mertens edged out Daria Saville, 6-4 4-6 7-5, on Friday to make the final of the WTA 250 Hobart International, and will play Emma Navarro, the 2nd seed, who defeated Yuan Yue, for the title on Saturday.

I knew it was going to be difficult, Daria is a very good player. It could have gone either way, a lot of 40-all. It was high-quality tennis. She is really improving. She's hitting the ball a bit harder, less mistakes too. Elise Mertens

After nearly 3 hours, Mertens prevailed, having gone down to the wire before getting past Saville, the Australian wild-card, to move into her 3rd career Hobart final, having won the title here in both 2017 and 2018.

Saville, who is on the come-back trail after returning to the tour in June from a serious knee injury, made an impressive run to the semi-finals, which involved wins over 3 Top 50 players in Hobart, including 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and China’s World No 33 Zhu Lin.

The World No 195 eventually lost to Mertens, ranked 29, but hopes to carry some momentum into the Australia Open after her run of upset wins was ended by the Belgian.

The 29-year-old Aussie has been given a wild-card entry into the main draw at the first Grand Slam of the year, and will meet Poland’s World No 72 Magdalena Frech in the 1st-round.


Daria Saville has had an impressive run in Hobart and pushed Elise Mertens to the wire in Friday's semi-final at the Domain Tennis Centre

© Steve Bell/Getty Images

Saville, who has previously reached the world’s Top 20, went toe-to-toe with Mertens, and, remarkably, both players won 37 points in the first set, and finished on 100 points won for the match.

Down an early break in the deciding set, Saville rallied to level at 3-3 before dropping serve in the second-last game.

“It was a great level. I’m proud of myself,” Saville said. “I got a bit nervous in the end, maybe a lack of playing semi-finals. But overall it was a great week. I can build on that and I’m excited for more.

“It is going to be exciting to play at home [at Melbourne Park]. It’s my favourite time of the year.”

Mertens said Saville had improved since their previous meeting in October in Hong Kong, which went the way of the Belgian in straight sets.

“I knew it was going to be difficult, Daria is a very good player,” said Mertens. “It could have gone either way, a lot of 40-all. It was high-quality tennis.

“She is really improving. She’s hitting the ball a bit harder, less mistakes too.”


Emma Navarro reached her first WTA final with impressive wins over Viktoriya Tomova and Yuan Yue amongst others

© Steve Bell/Getty Images

Mertens has had a relatively easy run to the final, winning her previous 3 matches in straight sets against Danielle Collins from the USA, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia, and Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, before battling past Saville in 2 minutes short of 3 hours.

The top-seeded Belgian, who owns an impressive 17-2 career win-loss record in Hobart, will now take on Navarro, an American ranked 31 in the world, for her 3rd Hobart title.

Navarro was pushed into 3 sets by France’s Clara Burel in the 1st-round and Viktorija Tomova, a lucky loser from Bulgaria in the quarters, but she had little difficulty navigating past Yuan, a qualifier from China in the Last 4, taking 81 minutes.

The 22-year old improved to 2-0 in quarter-final matches this season with her 4-6 6-3 6-2 win over Tomova at the Hobart International on Thursday, and topped that by reaching her first career WTA final with a straight-sets defeat of qualifier Yuan.




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