Nadia Petrova reached arguably the biggest final of her career on Friday with a straight-sets win over Sam Stosur at the $2 million Japan Open.
Strong serving helped the Russian overcome the Australian 6-4, 6-2, on Tokyo's hard courts to make her 23rd career final on the WTA Tour.
The manner of Petrova's victory was surprising after Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, had defeated Maria Sharapova convincingly in the quarterfinals.
"Yesterday Sam beat Maria, who is one of the top players right now, so I knew I had to put in a good performance, and I think I did," said Petrova, the tournament's 17th seed, in comments to the tournament website.
"My serve really helped, because when I'm holding my serve I can focus on breaking serve, and Sam serves very big so that's very important," the Miami-based player added.
"I'm happy I stayed mentally strong throughout the match and when I was serving it out at the end. I'm very happy with how I played today."
Petrova has a career ranking high is No. 3 in 2005, when she reached the French Open semifinal and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
The last of her 11 career titles came in June, when she defeated Urszula Radwanska in the final of the $220,000 UNICEF Open in the Netherlands.
Standing in the way of her 12th is Radwanska's big sister Agnieszka, who was devastating in her 6-1, 6-1 defeat of Germany's Angelique Kerber in the other semi, hitting 20 winners and just four unforced errors.
Radwanska, the third seed, leads 3-1 in their head-to-heads, but they have all been close contests.
Petrova has never competed for a share of such a big purse; the closest she has come is 2006, when she won three $1.3 million events.