Irina is to meet Thailand’s fifth-seeded Luksika Kumkhum in the final following the latter’s 6-2, 6-4 victory in 1 hour and ten minutes over another Russian player, sixth-seeded Margarita Gasparyan, in the second semi final.
Left-handed Irina was trailing 0-3 in both the sets after dropping her serve but came out with some clever play to upset the rhythm of Dalila, ranked 73rd and the runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus last year in this USD 125,000 WTA event, to come out trumps.
Irina, who was ranked 165 going into the tournament at the Cricket Club of India, slowed down the pace of the rallies consistently to upset the rhythm of her higher-ranked rival and won the match in an hour and 30 minutes at the Cricket Club of India’s hard courts.
The 23-year-old, Moscow-born Irina thus made it 2-1 in head to head encounters between the two players, having won on clay in the round of 16 in Budapest, Hungary, last year and then losing on hard court in Monterrey, Mexico in the first round this year.
Irina cleverly used the high ball which she later said was her normal game, even in her service returns on a number of times, to knock the 27-year-old Dalila off her pace. The Russian took the opening set in 39 minutes with a purple patch of five successive games after breaking back in the fifth game after four deuces and on the second break point, levelled at 3-all and broke her rival in the seventh to lead 4 -3 and held her own serve with the help of two aces for a 5-3 advantage.
Dalila held her serve but some strong serving by Irina helped the Russian in holding her serve with a drop shot to grab the opening set 6-4. The second seeded Slovenian took a 4-1 lead in the
second set and then held two break points for a commanding 5-1 lead when Irina again fought back to make it 4-2.
The Russian, ranked a career-high 89 once, broke the second seed’s serve in the seventh game on the third break point to narrow the gap to 4-3, but was broken to leave Dalila serving for the set at 5-3. The Slovenian faltered again and dropped her serve, Irina made it 5-all and then broke Dalila again to lead 6-5.
Dalila summoned her coach for a courtside chat when facing elimination, but it did not bear fruit as a determined Irina went up to 40-0 and then clinched the berth in Sundays final with a forehand cross-court winner.