Comeback queen Daria Saville is one win away from a fairytale sixth WTA final after stunning Chinese third-seed Zhu Lin in the quarter-finals of the Hobart International.
The popular Australian wildcard shook off a frustrating start to prevail 3-6 6-1 6-4 on Thursday and book a date with top seed Elise Mertens in the semi-finals.
Saville, a former top-20 player but now ranked No.195, is playing some of her finest tennis as she continues her comeback from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament which she suffered in 2022, sidelining her for nine months.
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Saville proved her straight-sets win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the round of 16 was no fluke and has justified being granted the final discretionary wildcard for the Australian Open.
“It feels so good,” an elated Saville said.
“It means the world being in the semi-finals at a home tournament, playing in front of a home crowd. I’m so happy.
“She was the better player in the first set for sure but I found my game and didn’t give up.
“I tried to turn it around by being more aggressive and it paid off.”
Below her best in the first set, Saville lifted her levels in the second, breaking with some wonderful defence, then breaking again when Zhu double-faulted twice.
Saville screamed “come on” as she sealed the pivotal third-set break in the ninth game via Zhu’s netted backhand before advancing when her opponent pulled a forehand wide.
Saville and Mertens – her semi-final opponent and back-to-back Hobart champion in 2017 and 2018 – have met six times, with the Belgian holding a 4-2 advantage.
“I’ve played Elise a few times,” Saville said.
“We know each other very well.
“She likes playing here but I’ll have the home crowd supporting me.”
Mertens has yet to drop a set at the Domain Tennis Centre this week and continued her red-hot form by outclassing Dutch veteran Arantxa Rus 7-5 6-0.
Mertens battled at times with the wind in the opening set before rediscovering her best tennis to concede just seven points in the second-set rout.
“I was more happy with how I played (compared to her round-two win over Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova), especially the second set,” said Mertens, chasing her third Hobart title.
“She was serving very well … I had to adjust a little bit in the first set.”
Second-seeded American Emma Navarro had to fight her way out of some early trouble to defeat Bulgarian lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova 4-6 6-3 6-2.
Navarro’s semi-final opponent will be China’s Yue Yan, who defeated Kazakh Yulia Putintseva 7-5 7-6 (7-4).