And they say football is a game of inches?
Melanie Oudin survived Saturday’s semifinals in the Party Rock Open with two consecutive shots that hit the net cord and barely flopped over in the third set, enabling her to outlast 17-year-old Mayo Hibi 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 at Darling Tennis Center.
Oudin will face Coco Vandeweghe in today’s 1 p.m. singles final. Vandeweghe overpowered Anna Tatishvili 6-1, 6-3 in the first semifinal.
“I’ve never had that happen to me, and I’ve never seen that,” Oudin said of her good fortune at the end, when an inch higher or lower might have resulted in a different story. “We were out there fighting for every point, and it was a really tough match.”
Hibi, who plays more like a veteran than a teenager, used a variety of slices, backhands and changes of pace to frustrate Oudin early. But Oudin, 22, adjusted and began to stay in the points longer.
“She makes you play bad,” Oudin said. “She forces errors. I decided I wasn’t going to beat her trying to hit winners from behind the baseline. I just tried to keep the rallies going and wait for my opportunities.”
After Oudin won the second set, she and Hibi exchanged service breaks in the deciding set, and Hibi had to extend her repertoire in the late stages to offset Oudin’s adjustments.
But Hibi had no answer when, at deuce serving 5-6, Oudin’s return hit the cord and tumbled over to give Oudin match point. And when it happened again on the next point, there wasn’t much Hibi could do but graciously accept her fate. She left the court in tears and a few minutes later said it was a tough way to lose.
“I’ve never seen that before,” she said, echoing Oudin’s comments. “I knew I would have to be more aggressive in the third set because she was countering my shots.”
After playing a counter-puncher in Hibi, Oudin will gear up for a slugger in Vandeweghe, who physically dominated Tatishvili early and kept the pressure on throughout their match.
“I felt I had the bigger strokes and she couldn’t return my balls,” said Vandeweghe, who broke Tatishvili four times in the first set.
Tatishvili also had trouble with her serve. She double-faulted six times and said the afternoon sun caused her problems.
“I couldn’t really see the ball,” Tatishvili said. “But she played well and I didn’t, and that’s pretty much it.”
Vandeweghe also will play in the doubles final, teaming with Tamira Paszek against Denise Muresan and Caitlin Whoriskey. The match will be played 30 minutes after singles.
The singles winner will make $7,600, and the doubles winners will split $2,786.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work here this week, so I’m looking forward to (today),” Vandeweghe said.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.