Petkovic, Cepelova Set for Sunday’s Final

Showing flashes of the form that brought her to the top 10 earlier in her career, Andrea Petkovic played her way into the Volvo Car Open final with a come-from-behind effort over No. 6 seed Genie Bouchard, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 Saturday.

“Petko” looked like a massive underdog in the early-goings of this match, losing the first set in 28 minutes and falling down break points at 2-3 in the second. But the German dialed in her forehand at the right moment, winning four straight games and then surviving a final set in which she trailed by a break.

MORE: Updated draws | Order of Play | Q&A with Petkovic

Jana Cepelova, the Slovakian who had stunned Serena Williams in the second round on Tuesday, continued her stirring run in Charleston with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7) victory over 17-year-old Belinda Bencic in what was a dramatic and nervy affair.

Cepelova had leads of 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set (including a match point at 5-4), but couldn’t convert against the qualifier Bencic, who had won just three WTA main draw matches prior to this week, when she won four. She became the youngest semifinalist at the Cup since Martina Hingis was 17 in 1997 (Hingis won that year).

World No. 20 Bouchard couldn’t conjure up the tennis that had helped her beat both Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic this week, pulling off her game plan when she needed it most. Her 26-year-old opponent broke at 4-3 then at 5-6 in the third set, sealing the match off a Bouchard error.

Petkovic, ranked No. 40, makes her first final since Washington DC last year, and the biggest final since 2011 in Beijing, when after she was beset by a series of injuries in 2012 and last year.

Petkovic was emotional following her win, sitting in her chair on court for several minutes with her face in a towel. She said she realized how much the effort on Billie Jean King Stadium Court this week really meant to her.

“I cry when I’m happy, strangely,” she told reporters. “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, and so I was just proud and happy and everything together.”

Petkovic was out for three months at the start of 2012 with a back problem, then got injured again in her first tournament back in April of that year. She returned in August, only to be out again in January of last year for nearly two months.

Cepelova is just 20, making the German the veteran – and favorite – in the last match of the tournament.

“I will try to use my experience as a 26-year-old here,” Petkovic said, laughing. “The thing is I think for me is just to sort of keep focused on each point and not think about the outcome, not think about results, just stay in the moment and not think about who’s on the other side, how old they are, and just try to keep on being in the momentum that I have right now.”

“I think I played really well in the first set and just disappointed I couldn’t kind of maintain it,” said Bouchard, who was a quarterfinalist here a year ago. “She never backed down and she really made me work for it, and yeah, you know, I mean I tried my best and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”

Petkovic, who was born to Serbian parents but lives in and plays for Germany, has a South Carolina connection: her father, Zoran Petkovic, played for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks tennis team in the early 1980s.

“I’m just very proud of him and everything he achieved,” said Petkovic. “And it’s funny how destiny plays, you know, how I’ve come to reach a final of a big tournament here in South Carolina where my father went to college is an honor, and it’s nice. It’s a blessing.”

Cepelova is without a team this week, going about her run on her own. Her coach went home following her playing in Miami and Janette Husarova, a countrywoman, played the coach role of coach on Tuesday when she beat Williams.

“I am here alone. My family, my coach support me from our country during the match, and I feel it,” she explained. “And if [win] like some very important points, I try to [turn] to the camera to [fist pump].”

The final is set for Sunday at 1 pm local time and will be aired on ESPN2.