Top seed Yanina Wickmayer has powered her way into the final of the WTA's Hobart International with a straight sets victory over Israel's Shahar Peer.
In an aggressive display of precision and brute strength, the tall Belgian set up a date with German giant-killer Mona Barthel with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 win over the sixth seed.
Peer brought out all of her fighting qualities to take the first set to a tie-breaker and saved two match points, but Wickmayer remained in the groove that has meant she is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
The world number 29 will tune up for her Australian Open campaign with a decider against 21-year-old qualifier Barthel, who beat the second, fourth and fifth seeds on her way to a first WTA final.
That included Friday's 6-0, 7-6 (8-6) victory over compatriot and world number 31 Angelique Kerber.
In a high-quality first set, Peer saved two set points when down 5-3 and another at 6-5 before the pair went to the tie-breaker.
But when Wickmayer flew out to 5-0 in the decider, there was no way back for the Israeli.
The Belgian took that momentum into the second set, racing out to lead 5-1.
Peer's spirit was on display again when she broke the Belgian when she was serving for the match at 5-2, saving a first match point in the process.
She saved the other on serve at 5-3 but could not hold and Wickmayer will look for her fourth title against Barthel.
Wickmayer has drawn Kazak Galina Voskoboeva in the first round at Melbourne Park and, on current form, looks likely to at least match her progression to the second round at the grand slam event last year.
The 22-year-old is on the comeback trail after a back injury wiped out the second half of her 2011 season.
She said she felt her back tightening in the cool conditions but was unconcerned.
"The more matches I'm playing the more rhythm I'm getting and the more I'm playing better on the important points," she said.
"I kept believing in myself and I think that is very important after a long time of not playing."
But she is wary of Barthel, whom she beat in their one previous meeting.
"She serves well and she plays the game very smart," Wickmayer said.
"She has nothing to lose ... I'm going to have to be ready and stay focused and keep playing my game."
AAPTags: sport, tennis, hobart-7000, tas, australia First posted January 13, 2012 23:08:41