Mexico City (AFP) - World No. 1 Angelique Kerber reached her first WTA final of 2017 but will face a stiff challenge from three-time champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the title-deciding match in Monterrey, Mexico.
Germany's Kerber, a two-time Grand Slam champion who regained the world No. 1 ranking in March after American Serena Williams was sidelined by injury, defeated fourth-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 in Saturday's semi-final.
Russia's Pavlyuchenkova, seeded second behind Kerber, defeated third-seeded Caroline Garcia of France 6-2, 6-4.
Pavlyuchenkova, Monterrey champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013, had Garcia on the run early, mustering 10 break point opportunities and breaking Garcia twice to take the first set, before calling upon a trainer to treat her left thigh.
But while Garcia seemed to gain some energy early in the second, she wasn't able to make a dent in Pavlyuchenkova's serve, and the Russian earned a late break in the second, serving out the match to book a fourth Monterrey final.
For Kerber, Sunday's match will be a chance to avenge her loss to Pavlyuchenkova in the 2013 Monterrey final.
"I'm happy to be in the finals here in Monterrey for the second time," said Kerber, who ousted defending champion Heather Watson in the quarter-finals.
"It's a completely new year, new match. I'm really looking forward to playing Anastasia.
"I think it will be a great atmosphere out here and I will try to enjoy the final and try to win it, of course," added Kerber, who broke Suarez Navarro in the 11th game of the opening set but was broken back in the next game as the Spaniard forced the tiebreaker.
Kerber won the first four games of the second set to take control.
She'll face a confident former champion in Pavlyuchenkova.
"I feel like this tournament I've been playing better and better with every match," the Russian said.