BANGKOK (Reuters) – Swiss qualifier Leonie Kung extended her dream run in the Thailand Open on Saturday, stunning Nao Hibino in the semi-final to set up a title clash with fifth seed Magda Linette in only her second main-draw appearance at a WTA event.
A day after knocking out world number 27 Wang Qiang, Kung showed character to beat her Japanese opponent 7-5 4-6 6-3.
“I’m super tired but also super happy to be able to win tonight,” the 19-year-old said after prevailing in the two-and-half-hour slugfest, which was halted for nearly half an hour after the Centre Court lights went off.
Losing the first set gave eighth seed Hibino a jolt, and she raced to a 3-0 lead in the second and eventually forced the decider.
Kung kept her nerve in the final set and dropped to her knees and pumped her fists when Hibino’s return on match point hit the net.
“I’m really nervous inside and not as composed as it may look,” the teenager said.
Linette remained on course for her second WTA title after the fifth seed beat Patricia Maria Tig 7-5 6-4.
The Pole began with a love hold in the opening game and even claimed the opening break, but Romanian Tig staged a comeback to put her two points away from claiming the set.
Linette, the highest-seeded player in the last four, raised her game just when she needed to snatch the set in less than an hour.
Tig grew erratic in the second set, adopting a high-risk approach, while struggling with her serve. It won her some cheap points, but she committed more unforced errors to fade away in the contest.
“I started a little bit too slow and gave her too much of the initiative,” Linette said.
“My coach told me to hit it harder and he was right. I started dictating the match, although I made a few more mistakes,” added the 28-year-old.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)