College Park, Maryland: Israeli top seed Shahar Peer and Russian second seed Nadia Petrova each rallied for a three-set win Saturday to reach the final of a $220,000 WTA hardcourt event in suburban Washington.
Peer was two points from defeat before fighting back to dispatch Austrian third seed Tamira Paszek 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 while Petrova downed 102nd-ranked, Ecuadoran-born American Irina Falconi 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Peer, who began the week on a five-match losing streak, seeks a sixth career WTA title on Sunday against Petrova, who has won their five previous matches, most recently in 2009 at Los Angeles when Peer took her only set off Petrova.
"It would mean a lot," Peer said of winning the title. "The best feeling ever is to win a title."
Peer won her most recent titles in 2009 at Guangzhou and Tashkent. She was one victory shy of cracking the top 10 in April but slid from a career high 11th to 24th in the rankings before switching to new coach Harold Solomon.
Petrova, seeking her 10th WTA title, is battling back after struggling with vertigo earlier this year. The 32-year-old from Moscow had not reached a final since last year at New Haven and has not won a title since 2008 at Quebec City.
Paszek, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon three weeks ago, took the court 16 hours after winning the second-longest WTA match of the year and promptly seized a 4-0 lead in what became another Tamira-thon.
Peer was on the verge of losing in the 10th game of the second set but hit a backhand winner to break Paszek and level the set on the way to a tie-breaker.
The 24-year-old Israeli forced a third set after racing ahead 5-0 in the tie-breaker, aided by Paszek feeling heat illness and a broken ball point replay after the Austrian appeared to have evened matters at 1-1.
"I was struggling with heat illness," Paszek said. "I had dizziness and couldn't see the ball really well. I tried to keep going but I couldn't quite finish it."
As for the broken ball, "To me it wasn't completely broken. It was soft," Paszek said. "In our sport we depend on other peoples' opinions so I have to take it."
Paszek, coming off a Wimbledon quarter-final run, double faulted to hand Peer a break and a 4-3 lead and both players held to the finish, which came after three hours and six minutes when Paszek swatted a forehand long.
"It was a tough one but I will take away the positives," Paszek said. "I know I can fight for three sets without much rest. I found my game, which is a good sign for the US Open."
Falconi, 21, won the first set of her first WTA semi-final in 26 minutes, but Petrova responded by taking the second in 32 minutes, then broke twice to seize a 4-0 lead in the third on her way to victory in one hour and 46 minutes.
Falconi, whose elite-level debut came at last year's US Open, will rise from 102nd to a career-high of 80th in the rankings and stand fourth among US women.