Kasatkina to face Fernandez in Eastbourne WTA final

Russia's Daria Kasatkina in action at the Eastbourne International (Glyn KIRK)
Russia's Daria Kasatkina in action at the Eastbourne International (Glyn KIRK)

Daria Kasatkina will battle Leylah Fernandez for the Eastbourne International WTA title after reaching the final of the Wimbledon warm-up event for the second straight year.

Sixth seed Kasatkina came from behind to defeat Jasmine Paolini 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in her semi-final on England's south coast on Friday while Fernandez defeated reigning champion Madison Keys.

Paolini, the third seed, was playing her first tournament since the French Open, where she reached the finals of both the singles and the doubles earlier this month.

The Italian broke three times in the first set to establish a foothold in a match in which there were nine breaks of serve in total.

The first 11 games of the second set went with serve until Paolini cracked, allowing Kasatkina to level.

Paolini took a 2-0 lead in the decider but saw her advantage slip as her 27-year-old Russian opponent broke twice to win.

"It's never easy to come to a tournament where you have to defend a lot of (ranking) points, but I'm really happy that I was able to play good and enjoy myself on court, always finding a way to come back in the match," Kasatkina said.

Kasatkina now faces Fernandez, beaten in the 2021 US Open final by Britain's Emma Raducanu, with the Canadian bidding for a fourth title in her career.

World number 30 Fernandez overcame American fourth seed Keys 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in blustery conditions at Devonshire Park.

"Grass suits Leylah very good," said Kasatkina. "Her game, she's a very aggressive player, always trying to stay inside (the court)."

- 'Means a lot' -

Saturday's match will be the 21-year-old Fernandez's first WTA final on grass, with Wimbledon starting on Monday.

"It means a lot to me," said Fernandez. "We have been working super hard over the past couple of months and I am super happy with the results these past few weeks."

In the men's tournament, top-seed Taylor Fritz, twice an Eastbourne champion, needed two tie-break sets to book his place in the final, with the American defeating Aleksandar Vukic 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4).

"I felt like I had a lot of chances to break and I just couldn't make it happen," said Fritz, who won Eastbourne in 2019 and 2022.

"It doesn't feel good just scraping by in 'breakers but it gives me a lot of confidence that I am finding ways to win."

The 26-year-old added: "I love playing here. The tournament is extra special to me because this is where I got my first title...and hopefully I'll be back tomorrow (Saturday) to get number three."

Fritz will face Max Purcell for the title after the Australian qualifier won through to his first ATP Tour final by defeating British wildcard Billy Harris 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

"I have a new coach this week and I feel everything is coming together this week," said Purcell, who won the 2022 Wimbledon doubles title with Matthew Ebden. "It feels good."