Croatia’s Ana Konjuh is through to the Australian Open junior girls’ singles final after a three-set win over Russian Elizaveta Kulichkova on Friday afternoon.
The number three seed overcame some mid-match wobbles to record a 6-2 3-6 6-1 victory in one hour and 31 minutes.
With her bullet-like backhand doing the majority of the damage, the powerful 15-year-old started with all guns blazing, racing to a 5-1 lead before closing out the first set 6-2.
However, in windy and cool conditions, the tables turned in the second, as Kulichkova mustered a break of serve against the run of play in the fifth game. One year older than her opponent, Kulichkova kept the momentum on her side to take the set 6-3.
The intensity lifted in the deciding third set, but it was Konjuh who stole the early ascendency as a cross-court passing shot saw her break in the opening game. She then surged to 5-1 before finishing in style with a backhand winner down the line.
It is Konjuh’s best result at a junior Grand Slam, having made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the third round of the US Open in 2012.
She will meet world No. 2 Katerina Siniakova in Saturday’s final after the Czech was a convincing 6-2 6-3 winner over Estonian 10th seed Anett Kontaveit.
The 16-year-old Siniakova was the more consistent performer in her first junior championship at Melbourne Park. Not afraid to utilise the slice backhand, Siniakova’s superior court coverage regularly frustrated her opponent into errors.
After claiming the first set 6-2, Siniakova opened up an early lead in the second and was unflustered in closing out the match.
Siniakova will have to break new ground to lift the trophy, with Konjuh holding a two-nil head-to-head record on the junior circuit after wins in the Orange Bowl International and Eddie Herr International tournaments last year.
The girls’ junior final will be played on Rod Laver Arena at 12:30pm on Saturday. The junior boys’ final, between Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, will start not before 2.30pm, and will be broadcast live on Channel 7.