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TOP SEED LISICKI TO MEET PLISKOVA IN PRUDENTIAL HONG KONG TENNIS OPEN SINGLES FINAL

(Hong Kong, 13 September 2014) – Top seed Sabine Lisicki staved off a determined challenge from veteran Francesca Schiavone to enter Sunday’s final at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.

Germany’s Liskici was pushed to three sets by crowd favourite and former French Open champion Schiavone before prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to win the second semi-final at Victoria Park.

“I’m really happy to win that (the match). It was a great semi-final, one with long fun rallies, and something which the crowd enjoyed,” Lisicki said. “She (Schiavone) is a great fighter and you have to be patient against her. I was really fired up as I wanted to win and I started to serve well.”

The capacity crowd at Victoria Park Tennis Stadium was treated to two hours of thrilling tennis with the highlight of the match coming in the first set when Schiavone chased down what seemed like a winning lob all the way to the baseline and flicked it between her legs back to her opponent. Although Schiavone lost the point, she won the support of the fans who gave “La Lionessa”, as she is known in her native Italy, a roaring ovation.

Lisicki will meet Czech and third seed Karolina Pliskova in the final of the inaugural US$250,000 WTA tournament on Sunday. Pliskova had earlier won her semi-final defeating Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

A last-minute entry to the Hong Kong tournament after organisers had given her a wild card, the 24-year-old Lisicki suffered a mid-match crisis as her serve deserted her allowing 2010 French Open champion Schiavone to come back strongly.

Both players traded service breaks in the deciding third set before the German, the world number 31 and highest-ranked player in the tournament, suddenly regained her fluid and powerful serve rifling in crucial aces to sweep away the last four games and storm into the final.

“This is my first final this season and I’m happy to be in it,” said Lisicki. “I have beaten her (Pliskova) twice before this year but she is serving well so I will have to make sure my own serve is in order and take her weapon away.”

Her opponent in the final, Pliskova, had also looked on course to registering an easy win when she swept to the first set. But her Belgian opponent who had claimed the scalp of second seed Daniela Hantuchova in the second-round, and that too coming back after dropping the first set, found her rhythm to un-nerve Pliskova.

“Even though I had a good start I felt my serve was not working and it fell apart in the second set and I began to get nervous,” said the 22-year-old Pliskova. “But in the third set I calmed down and started to play better.”

Van Uytvanck broke Pliskova in the first game of the second set and that was enough to allow her to draw level at one set-apiece.

The Belgian who is ranked 91 in the world began the decider in similar fashion breaking her opponent’s first service game and looked on track to upsetting the Czech world number 36.

But Pliskova finding her range again with her groundstrokes fought back and held triple break-point at 3-4, 0-40. The rising pressure took a toll on Van Uytvanck as she buckled under to allow Pliskova to draw level at 4-4.

Yet the dogged Belgian refused to give up and in the next game held two break points of her own at 15-40 but couldn’t convert them – she only had a conversion rate of 50 per cent in the match – as Pliskova kept her composure to win the next four points to take a 5-4 lead.

The pressure got to Van Uytvanck and a lovely backhand return from Pliskova which left the Belgian stranded on her first serve in the 10th game was the writing on the wall. Pliskova held two match points at 15-40, and converted the second to reach her third final in her career.

“I would like to win another final. My target is to break into the world’s top 32 by the end of this year so that it will make it easier (be a seeded player) at the Australian Open next year,” Pliskova said.

14 September may just turn out to be a day to remember for Karolina as she is also in the doubles final with her twin sister, Kristyna. They play surprise finalists Arina Rodionova and Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, and will most certainly be hoping for twin victories at the inaugural Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.