Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Long road to book rare semifinal shot

Tamira Paszek is producing a Cinderella Story. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Tamira Paszek is producing a Cinderella Story. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Today Tamira Paszek will play her seventh match in seven days.

Her first outing at the 2016 ASB Classic was last Saturday, in front of five people. The Austrian had arrived at this tournament with a world ranking of 172.

The last time she won more than one match at a WTA level event was September 2012. And now she is in the semifinals, one game away from her fourth career final.

Tennis can often engender memorable Cinderella stories and Paszek is certainly the tale of this tournament so far.

In a week of surprises, she is an unlikely semifinalist. But it's completely deserved, as the 25-year-old has taken the hard road here.

Paszek arrived last week to sign into qualifying, as has been the norm over the past few years, as a series of injuries have seen her ranking plummet - at one point as low as 263.

Incessant rain last Saturday sent the first round of qualifying indoors, with no ticket access for spectators.

It meant that Paszek's encounter with Mandy Minella was watched only by their respective coaches and some tournament officials.

On Sunday, Paszek beat world No 85 Monica Puig in three sets, before trumping Japanese world No 81 Kurumi Nara on Monday morning.

So before she had played a single minute in the tournament proper, Paszek had already spent more than four and a half hours on court.

Paszek then beat former Grand Slam champion Francesca Schiavone across almost three hours on Tuesday, before ending the run of another major winner - Svetlana Kuznetsova - in the second round.

And yesterday, another win - and another long stint on court - as she outlasted 2014 ASB Classic semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3, spending another 131 minutes on centre court.

Paszek dominated the contest but couldn't shrug off her fellow qualifier. She led 4-1 in the second set before Flipkens came back, then held a 5-0 advantage in the final set before Flipkens threatened another revival. But Paszek eventually prevailed, on her seventh match point.

"At 4-1 in the second set it felt like someone pulled a plug and I had no more energy left," Paszek said.

"It was a weird feeling out there and she kept pushing me all around the court. It was a bit tough to find the energy again but it was the crowd ... they kept me going."

Paszek faces 2011 ASB Classic semifinalist Julia Goerges this afternoon. They have met on four previous occasions, with two victories each.

- NZ Herald

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