LONDON (REUTERS) - Garbine Muguruza became the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since 1996 when she beat Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in an engrossing Centre Court duel on Thursday.
The 20th seed showed no early nerves in the biggest match of her career and seemed to be on course for a quickfire victory when she powered through the first set and moved 3-1 ahead in the second.
But wily 13th seed Radwanska, playing her third Wimbledon semi-final, dug her heels in and the momentum shifted her way with a run of six successive games.
Muguruza, at 21 the youngest of the semi-finalists, never lost heart though, despite going down an early break in the decider, and after winning a tense service game at 2-2 she broke Radwanska and then held her own serve for a 5-2 lead.
There were understandable nerves as Muguruza served for the match at 5-3, not helped by a foot-fault and a double-fault, but she clinched victory on her first match point with a swinging forehand volley after a powerful first serve forced Radwanska into a desperate high return.
Muguruza will face either world No. 1 and five-time champion Serena Williams or Russian Maria Sharapova in Saturday's final.
Conchita Martinez was the last Spanish woman to win the Wimbledon title, when she beat Martina Navratilova in 1994. Arantxa Sánchez Vicario lost to German legend Steffi Graf two years later.