Carla Suarez Navarro will face Aryna Sabalanka for the 2018 Connecticut Open title after her opponent, Monica Puig, retired hurt on Thursday night.
The Spaniard advanced with games locked at 4-4. The former world No.6 will play for just her third career title, her first since Doha in 2016.
“Yeah, it's not the way [I want to advance],” Suarez Navarro said. “I mean, I feel like I didn't play and I'm in the final.
“I wanted just Monica to be good because nobody wants to [miss] a Grand Slam, so we only have two or three days to start there.”
With six wins under her belt, it was the qualifier Puig who started the more aggressively of the two, teeing off at will to break for 3-2.
But as the players changed ends the Puerto Rican, a gold medalist from the Rio Olympic Games, called for the trainer at the next change of ends.
The toll of six straight matches in her New Haven campaign was showing.
Suarez Navarro broke straight back and a visibly distressed Puig returned to the court after taking a medical time out.
She lasted just one more game, making a tearful exit just days before her US Open campaign is due to begin.
“It was a bit of an abdominal strain that I started feeling in my second service game,” Puig said. “I just gradually got worse from there.
“It was both pain and disappointment at that moment. I definitely wasn't feeling good. I worked so hard to get to this point, this point of the tournament. To have to retire, especially in the semi-final, it's definitely not a happy moment.”
For 29-year-old Suarez Navarro, it sets a first-time clash with unseeded Belarusian, Sabalenka, a player nine years her junior.
With arguably the finest single-handed backhand in the women’s game, Suarez Navarro will do well to emulate in the final the Belgian great who’s backhand she moulded her signature shot on, a winner of 43 titles, including seven Grand Slam trophies.
“Well, when I started to play, I played like this,” she said. “When I'm growing up, Justine Henin was playing the WTA Tour, so I watched her… It's really natural, but I was practicing a lot and watching her.”