It proved to be a step too far for Johanna Konta on Saturday when she was outgunned by No 9 seed Marie Bouzkova in the semi-finals of the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, but Elina Svitolina reached her appointed place in the final with a convincing win over Arantxa Rus, with the loss of just one game.
I love to play in Mexico. I always get so much love here. I'm really excited to be in the final tomorrow. Marie Bouzkova
Bouzkova, a 21-year-old Czech, took an hour and 41 minutes to get past Konta, 6-3 6-4, to reach her first WTA final.
Mexico agrees with the former US Open junior champion, who made her WTA debut in Acapulco in 2015, reached the final of the WTA 125 Series event in Guadalajara last year, and won two ITF tournaments in the country in her career so far.
“It’s an amazing feeling, I feel like I am playing at home,” said Bouzkova, who has yet to lose a set in 4 matches this week.
Ranked 57, she saved all 5 break points she faced in the match, and broke Konta once in each set, to set up a date with top seed Svitolina.
After earning the first break of serve to lead 4-2, Bouzkova later saved a break point as she served out the opener in just under 40 minutes, and held off a game effort from the British No 1 in a second that lasted around an hour.
After receiving a medical timeout between sets to get treatment on her knee, Konta battled on bravely in the second as she sought to extend the match.
The 3-time Grand Slam semi-finalist saved 3 break points in her 1st and 5th service games, but after Bouzkova denied the former World No 4 two chances to lead 5-3, the Czech ultimately won the last 3 games of the match.
“I love to play in Mexico. I always get so much love here,” an emotional Bouzkova said through tears after the match, earning a big round of applause from the Mexican fans.
“I’m really excited to be in the final tomorrow.”
Konta, whose last title came in Miami 3 years ago, will now move on to the year’s opening Premier Mandatory event in Indian Wells with a couple of decent wins under her belt.
In the final, Bouzkova has a stern test in the form of the World No 7, Svitolina, who took just 50 minutes to dispatch Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, 6-0 6-1.
Throughout the week, the top seed has channelled her best and put her previous wayward performances behind her to make her first final for this season.
While she did not face a single break point, Svitolina broke her opponent 5 times in the course of the match.
She also won almost 88 per cent points on her first service to Rus’ 39 per cent.
“It was an amazing match from me,” Svitolina said. “I was very solid from the baseline and I was serving well, so hopefully, I can keep it up for the final as well.”
The Ukrainian won the first 7 games of the match before Rus got on the board as the World No 76 saved break point in the lone game she won to ultimately save the double bagel, and lost just 5 points in the match’s last 5 games.
Svitolina will contest her 17th career WTA singles final against Bouzkova on Sunday, as she bids for a 13th career title.
The two have played once before, in the second round of the Guangzhou International Women’s Open last September, and that match was won by the Czech when Svitolina retired due with right knee pain while trailing, 6-4, 4-3.