Croatian teen makes 1st WTA final in Tashkent

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TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -Sixteen-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia reached her first WTA final beating Eva Birnerova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in the Tashkent Open on Friday, becoming the youngest player in six years to play a title match.

Vekic will face another first-time finalist, Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, who beat second-seeded Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 6-3. Radwanska was the last remaining seed in the tournament.

But all eyes were on Vekic, a qualifier making her WTA main draw debut. She has seven straight wins, including three over top-100 players this week. With the semifinal win on Friday, the 183rd-ranked Vekic is projected to improve at least 50 spots.

"It's quite hard to believe," Vekic said. "It feels like a dream, but it's the reality and I am so happy."

Serving was the difference on Friday, as 133rd-ranked Birnerova hit 10 double faults and Vekic nine aces. Vekic broke Birrnerova twice in the first and third sets.

"She was a difficult player and did not give me any rhythm," Vekic said. "I lost my focus a bit in the second set. I didn't play my best tennis today, but it is important to win on days like these."

In the other match, Radwanska, the younger sister of third-ranked Agnieszka, was no match for Begu.

Begu, who also beat third-seeded Alize Cornet of France and eighth-seeded Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan, will also play for her first WTA title on Saturday.

Begu broke a tired-looking Radwanska three times in the first set and raced to 5-1 in the second.

"I was really tired from yesterday's match and it's hard to recover on hard courts, but today I ran for every ball and put it back forcing Urszula to commit mistakes," said Begu, the WTA newcomer of the year in 2011. "I'm happy to make it to my first final and would not like to think about the final. I want to enjoy this moment and recover."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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