Montreal's Eugenie Bouchard couldn't finish off German Andrea Petkovic on Saturday at the Family Circle Cup women's tennis tournament.
Bouchard was two games away from recording the win and advancing to her second WTA Tour final. But the ninth-ranked Petkovic rallied for the 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory and hand the 20-year-old Bouchard her third loss in as many head-to-head meetings between the two.
Playing her third straight three-set match, Bouchard was just one point away from going ahead 5-2 in the third. But Petkovic broke Bouchard twice down the stretch to advance to her first championship since Washington, D.C., last August where she fell to Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets.
"I think I just hesitated on a few balls and on my chances. That's not the way I want to play," Bouchard said. "I really want to go for my shots, and when I hesitate, it doesn't end up well for me."
Petkovic will face Jana Cepelova, who came back from 4-1 down in a third-set tiebreaker to oust 17-year-old Swiss qualifier Belinda Bencic 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7).
Petkovic broke down and cried with a towel over her head after the match, happy and relieved that she was again in this position after the past three years dealing with injuries to her ankle, knee and back that caused her to miss nine months on tour.
"I was just so relieved and I was proud that I came back from all these injuries, and I never thought that I would play finals in the big tournaments again," said Petkovic, who hadn't gotten past the quarter-finals in her six previous tournaments this season.
Petkovic, ranked 40th in the world, calmly analyzed her first-set shortcomings and understood that with a few changes, she could get back in the match.
"I wasn't that upset because I felt Genie was playing incredible tennis," she said. "I just lacked that 10 per cent."
So Petkovic moved a step closer to the baseline so she could hit deeper forehands and put Bouchard on her heels. Things finally clicked midway through the second set as Petkovic fought off three break points to hold serve and begin her comeback.
"I said, 'Even if I miss more, I'm going to have to get the length or she's going to kill me,"' Petkovic said.
Bouchard wasn't done, taking a 4-2 lead in the final set and having a chance to break serve for a bigger lead. But Petkovic hit a pair of crisp serves to win that game and followed by breaking Bouchard's serve to tie the set at four games.
Petkovic broke Bouchard's serve a final time to close out the match on four consecutive points.
Bouchard trailed in the third set in her two previous matches before eliminating No. 11 seed Venus Williams in the third round and No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals. Against Petkovic, Bouchard says she didn't play as aggressively down the stretch as she had hoped.
Petkovic's father, Zoran, played college tennis at South Carolina and was among the Gamecocks top players with an 18-8 singles record in 1982. She hopes to give her family more reason to celebrate their connections to the Palmetto State.
Andrea Petkovic, who's won two WTA titles at Strasbourg in 2011 and Bad Gastein in 2009, understands she'll be expected to easily defeat her untested opponent.
"They are super young, so they will come out and play great tennis," she said. "I am 100 per cent sure of that, so I will have it very tough and I will have to fight hard."