Russia’s Irina Khromacheva trailed 0-3 and 1-4 in the first and second sets of her semifinal against a much higher-ranked opponent in Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic in the $125,000 L&T Mumbai Open at the Cricket Club of India courts on Saturday.
But after a see-saw skirmish for one and a half hours, it was the 23-year-old Russian Irina who walked away a convincing winner at 6-4, 7-5 and put herself in contention for the top prize of $20,000 and 160 WTA points.
Irina, ranked 165 in the world, played exceptional and intelligent tennis and, in the face of adversity, believed in her prowess to win the big points that stunned her rival.
The two had entered the centre court after a fine semifinal doubles contest that Bibiane Schoofs (the Netherlands) and Barbara Stefkova (Czech Republic) won over two sets and the 10-point super tie-breaker, and the Saturday evening crowd had their fill.
Earlier this year, Dalila had beaten Irina on a hard court tournament in Mexico after a three-set defeat on clay in a Budapest ITF the previous year. Dalila, who has tasted almost an equal number of wins in hard and clay this year, raced to a 3-0 lead. She closed the opening game with a backhand winner, the second with a firm forehand finish and third on the sixth point.
The momentum shift happened against the run of play. Not to be perturbed by the situation she was in, Irina played from behind the baseline, and played many a lob to break Dalila's rhythm.
Irina won five games in a row and showcased a variety of strokes, including her facile drop shots.
After claiming the second set, Irina won a mere one point of the next 13 as Dalila cruised to a 3-0 lead and stretched it to 4-1, before Irina staged a comeback and won won three games on the trot to trail 3-5.
Dalila dropped the ninth game which enabled the persevering Russian to tighten her game, and take the next three and seal her spot in the final, where she will face Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum.
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