Mason, Ohio:Akiko Morigami returned to the Cincinnati Women's Open final when she outlasted qualifier Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday.
Morigami will play top-seeded Anna Chakvetadze of Russia in Sunday's final. Chakvetadze bounced back from a rough second set to advance with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 win over third-seeded Sania Mirza of India.
"I just really enjoyed the match," said seventh-seeded Morigami, who lost to Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in the 2005 championship match. "She's been playing well. I had to battle all the way. I had to be mentally tough."
Morigami had 17 chances to break Amanmuradova's serve and converted just four. The most crucial came in the sixth game of the third set when the Japanese veteran returned a second serve deep to Amanmuradova's backhand. Amanmuradova hit her return volley into the net.
"It was a little bit tough," Morigami said. "I kept telling myself not to think about the breaks and just to focus on the next point."
Morigami, who needed 2 hours, 48 minutes to beat Camille Pin of France in the first round, closed out the 2-hour, 28-minute match against Amanmuradova with a forehand volley.
"I can't put my shoulder up anymore. I had a lot of matches this week _ a lot of stress," said Amanmuradova, who dealt with a bee sting and a toothache while winning three qualifying matches to earn a tournament berth. "Mentally, I'm OK. I played well all week. On Saturday, she played better at the important moments."
Neither player could break the other in the first set, leading to a tiebreaker that was just as even until, with a 9-8 lead, Amanmuradova lofted a drop shot that the more-experienced player returned long.
"The only chance I had was to keep serving the same, but when you get tired, you can't make as many first serves, and she takes chances on second serves," Amanmuradova said.
The players combined in the second set for five service breaks, including the last three games, with Morigami's three giving her the edge.
Mirza, the only semifinalist who hadn't lost a set, failed to hold serve and lost the first set in just 27 minutes. She fought back to open a 4-1 lead in the second set, but still had to overcome a chair umpire's overruling in the 12th game to force the third set.
Chakvetadze, who's making her first appearance in the tournament, opened a 5-0 lead in the third set before settling for the 6-3 win.