Marvelous Mertens wins twice to reach Lugano final

No.2 seed Elise Mertens needed to do some heavy lifting to reach her second WTA final of the season on Saturday, as the World No.20 won not one, but two three-set matches to advance to the championship.
Mertens started her afternoon with a two hour, 36-minute battle against Germany's Mona Barthel in the quarterfinals, as she came from a break down in the final set to win 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(0), before later dispatching Belarusian qualifier Vera Lapko in the semifinals, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in just over two hours.
The Hobart International champion prior to the start of the Australian Open in January, Mertens will face Lapko's compatriot, Aryna Sabalenka, in the final after the Belarusian won two straight-set matches on Saturday with the loss of just nine games.

“It’s mentally tough [playing two singles matches in one day] and also for the body, which sometimes didn’t want to move that well today!" a weary, but elated Mertens said after the match against Lapko.
"I pulled through against a really good player. She’s still young and a hard-hitter, so I had to stay aggressive. I’m happy with my performance today - and I still have to play a doubles match later!"
Mertens also trailed by a break in the final set against Lapko, as the qualifier was looking to win her sixth match this week to advance to her first WTA final, but the Belgian won the last three games to squeak out another victory.
Mertens' marathon effort was the result of a week of rain in Lugano, which ensured that the No.2 seed did not finish her second round match against Marketa Vondrousova until Friday.

“The first couple of days this week, we didn’t really practice, so I went to the gym and did some things to keep myself warm for when I needed to go on court," the Belgian said of the weather. "I think it’s just about mentally staying tough in every moment.
“I take it match by match. Whether it’s the first round or the final, you just want to win the match. If the level is good and you play your game, then maybe something can happen."
Mertens' marathon Saturday continued later in the afternoon, as she and compatriot Kirsten Flipkens partnered in the doubles semifinals to defeat Kristyna Pliskova and Galina Voskoboeva, 6-3, 7-5.
Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka ended the hopes of home favorite Stefanie Voegele at the Samsung Open presented by cornèr on Friday, advancing to her second career WTA final with a 6-4, 6-2 semifinal victory.
It was the second two-set victory for Sabalenka on the afternoon, as the 19-year-old had previously defeated Italy's Camila Giorgi in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-0.
The teenager enjoyed contrasting passage into Sunday's final than her foe in tomorrow's match, No.2 seed Elise Mertens, who came from behind in two three-setters to reach the championship.

"It was a tough today, because of two matches in one day - especially against players with two different kinds of play," Sabalenka said after the semifinal.
"[Giorgi] plays really fast, and the second match, she tried to spin, slice, hard and slow and whatever. It was a tough day - a tough week because of the rain...I try to not care about the conditions and play as fast as I can before the rain - but it was really tough, and cold!"
Sabalenka dominated over the course of the 71-minute encounter against Voegele, winning over 70 percent of the points played on her first serve and only facing one break point in the second set.
The teenager's lone blip in the victory came late in the opener, as she served for it first at 5-2 only to see Voegele break for the second time in four return games in the set.
The World No.119, who saved match points in her second round win against No.6 seed Alizé Cornet on Friday and ended the run of German qualifier Tamara Korpatsch in her quarterfinal, continued to battle, but Sabalenka served out a one-set lead in her second opportunity.
After securing a set and a break lead with her fourth break of the match, this one at love, early in the second set, Sabalenka faced her lone break point in the second set in the fourth game, but duly saved it and later added an insurance break to win.
While Mertens has battled her way into the championship with a trio of three-set matches, World No.61 Sabalenka has dropped just one set en route to the final, conserving energy in a rainy week in Lugano.
The Belarusian reached her first career final on hard courts last fall, where she fell in a tight two-setter to Maria Sharapova at the Tianjin Open, and this week marks the first clay court final for Sabalenka in her career at any level. 
"It was a tough preparation for the clay season - last year, I only won two matches on clay, and this year I have to work really hard to play really good on clay courts, so it's really worked," Sabalenka said. "I just focus on every ball, every game, every shot."
Sabalenka later ensured that she and Mertens will also face off in the doubles final, also winning her third match of the day. She and compatriot Vera Lapko partnered to defeat No.2 seeds Alicija Rosolska and Abigail Spears, 6-2, 3-6, 10-7.