ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fans were treated to a pair of three-set semifinal singles battles and a three-set doubles semifinal on Saturday at the ColemanVision Tennis Championships.
Today they’ll see a championship showdown few might have expected.
Unseeded Anna Tatishvili and No. 8 seed Shelby Rogers advanced to the singles final at Tanoan Country Club, and both did it the hard way.
Tatishvili dropped the first set before storming back to knock out No. 1 seed Alison Riske 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. Riske came into the tournament ranked No. 57 in the world, while Tatishvili was ranked 194th.
“Allie was coming off a great U.S. Open, so confident and playing well,” Tatishvili said. “I really just tried to stay in every point and play my best tennis. I’m really happy it worked out.”
Rogers seemed on the verge of being another upset victim against wild-card entry Chieh-Yu Hsu. After dominating the first set, Rogers struggled mightily to put away the consistent Hsu and was two points away from defeat at one point.
But after changing her top, Rogers rallied to force a third-set tiebreaker and won that convincingly. She advanced with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (1) victory.
“I guess I should have changed my top much earlier,” Rogers said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy today because (Hsu) doesn’t give away points or make many mistakes. Sure enough, it was rough.”
Rogers had matched up with Hsu on several previous occasions but has not faced Tatishvili.
“I’ve practiced with her and we’re at a lot of the same tournaments,” Rogers said. “She’s a familiar face, for sure, but I’ve never played her. Hopefully, she’ll be a little tired, too, and we can give the fans a good match.”
Tatishvili certainly managed to wear out Riske, but it didn’t seem a likely outcome midway through the match. Riske won the opening set and won three straight games convincingly to lead 4-2 in the second.
It didn’t faze Tatishvili.
“I tried not to even think about the score,” she said.
Instead, she fought back to win four of the next five games to force a third set, hitting some blistering backhands along the way.
Riske, playing her third three-setter of the tournament, tried to regain her momentum. Pumping her fist after good points and, at one point, talking to the ball before a serve, Riske gradually built a 5-3 lead and was serving for the match at 5-4.
But the top seed lost her composure in the final two games, hitting several errant shots to help Tatishvili even the set. The underdog then seized her opportunity, winning a key point at the net to hold serve and lead 6-5.
Riske could not recover, double-faulting twice in the final game, including at match point.
The Rogers-Hsu semifinal was oddly similar until the very end. Rogers, the more emotional and harder-hitting player, dominated early, while the steady, stoic Hsu calmly awaited an opening.
Hsu’s patience began to pay off in the second set, as her consistent baseline returns began to frustrate Rogers. At one point Rogers hit a return into the bottom of the net, looked toward the crowd and said: ‘Wow, that was really bad.’ ”
The third set began to seem like a replay of the earlier semi when Rogers double-faulted twice and was broken by Hsu to tie the set at 5-5. Hsu then held to lead 6-5 and took a 30-0 lead in a potential match-ender.
But Rogers battled back, winning the game and rolling through the tiebreaker.
“I’m always pretty confident in tiebreakers,” she said. “I just tell myself to be aggressive and go for my shots. It’s better to go down swinging.”
In another marathon semifinal Saturday, Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend outlasted Tatishvili and Irina Falconi in doubles 6-2, 2-6, 11-9.
Oudin and Townsend will take on Eleni Daniilidou and CoCo Vandeweghe in today’s final. Daniilidou and Vandeweghe advanced Friday.
Today’s championships begin at noon with doubles. The singles final will follow.