WATCH: Riske praises Juvan's fighting spirit


There’s no denying it’s been an uphill battle for Alison Riske since the WTA Tour restarted last August. Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis prevented her from playing at one-hundred percent. She's dropped from the Top 20 to No. 38 and hadn’t been able to get any momentum going, entering this week at just 4-11 on the year.

In an encouraging turn of events, Riske is finding her form again this week in Portorož, Slovenia. The 30-year-old has strung together four match wins in a row for the first time since finishing runner-up at Wuhan in October 2019 thanks to her 6-0, 6-4 victory over home favorite Kaja Juvan in Saturday’s semifinals.

While the performance hands Riske a shot at capturing her first title in more than two years ('s-Hertogenbosch, June 2019), the American didn’t celebrate her own success when interviewed on court afterwards. Instead, Riske chose to shine a light on Juvan.

“Kaia was struggling there and she put on an awesome performance despite that. Congrats on a great week,” Riske said, applauding Juvan as she walked off the court.

Riske has won eight of the nine sets she's played this week.

Riske has won eight of the nine sets she's played this week.

The 20-year-old, who ousted top seed Petra Martić in her opening round, was hindered by an upper left leg injury. She took a medical timeout five games into the contest and though her movement was compromised, Juvan gave everything for her local fans in her WTA semifinal debut by erasing an early break deficit in the second set before Riske regained control.

“Her injury was interesting, because it showed how versatile she is as a player. I thought that was really cool to see in a young girl,” continued Riske. “She has the ability to take time away but also able to make a lot of balls, throw junk in there and make it difficult. Obviously she has a bright future. I think everyone knows that.”

Seeking her third WTA title, only Jasmine Paolini stands between Riske and a well-deserved trophy. Paolini has knocked out three seeds en route to the title match, including No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva in the first semifinal.

“I’ve never played Jasmine in singles. I think it’s going to be a battle,” Riske said.

“I’m just thrilled to be in a final.”

This is the 10th occasion Riske is playing for a tour-level crown, while Paolini has never been this far at a WTA tournament.