World No. 91 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro cruised past No.28-ranked Ons Jabeur in Charleston on Saturday, 6-3, 6-2, to move through to the biggest final of her career at the WTA 500 event.
She had won only three games the only other time they played, at an ITF event in Budapest in 2018.
“I feel wonderful right now, to be honest,” Kovinic said in her on-court interview. “Even though I’m a little bit tired, I gave my best on the court today to make it through. I was very decisive today.”
It had already been a career week for Kovinic. Having pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament in the third round on Thursday, taking out No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 6-1, she battled for almost three hours—two hours and 53 minutes, to be exact—to beat No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva in the quarterfinals on Friday, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 6-1, coming within two points of defeat in the second set.
She was through to the semifinals of a WTA 500 event for the first time.
It looked like there might be some fatigue for Kovinic very early on against Jabeur on Saturday as she dropped her serve at 15 in the opening game, but Kovinic broke right back, and after the two traded holds until 3-all, the Montenegrin came alive, winning seven games in a row to build a 6-3, 4-0 lead.
They stayed on serve the rest of the way until Kovinic sealed the deal, missing out on her first two match points but closing it out after an hour and 18 minutes after a Jabeur backhand into the net.
It was a stark contrast to their only other meeting, which Jabeur dominated, 6-2, 6-1.
“Obviously both of us have been developing our games over the years, and Ons, she’s a Top 30 player now,” Kovinic said. “I just went on the court today trying to win, trying to show what I can do.
“Hopefully I’m doing well.”
Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith
At the end of the day, Kovinic’s numbers were just too clean for Jabeur—the Montenegrin finished with 13 winners to 15 unforced errors, while the Tunisian had 16 winners to 27 unforced errors.
Kovinic is now through to her third career WTA final, and first at the WTA 500 level. Her previous two finals both came at WTA 250s, on hard courts in Tianjin, China in 2015 (falling to Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-1) and on clay in Istanbul, Turkey in 2016 (falling to Cagla Buyukakcay, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3).
Kudermetova beat Kovinic in their only previous meeting in the qualies of Shenzhen in 2019, 6-4, 7-5.
At No. 28, Jabeur remains the only player in the Top 30 of the WTA rankings without a WTA title. And at No. 38, Kudermetova is the next-highest-ranked player on the WTA rankings without a WTA title.