Auckland, 7 January 2011 | AFP

Defending champion Yanina Wickmayer fought back from the brink of defeat Friday to make the final of the Auckland Classic women’s tennis tournament.

She faces little known Hungarian Greta Arn, who conquered top seed Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals before beating fourth seed German Julia Goerges in Friday’s semi-final 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

It was a much tougher ordeal for Wickmayer when she lost the first set to unseeded Peng Shuai of China and was taken to a tie-break in the second before winning 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 in a near three-hour battle.

Peng, who beat third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova earlier in the tournament, was up 6-5 in the second set and serving for the match before Wickmayer was able to take the initiative.

“It was a really, really tough match, physically and mentally,” said the second seeded Wickmayer.

“She had a lot of chances in the second set to close it out but thankfully I won through.”

In hot and humid conditions, Wickmayer broke Peng earlier in the deciding set but then dropped her serve after reaching match point at 5-4 up.

However, she immediately broke back and then held her serve to make the final against the 31-year-old Arn.

Arn has been the giantkiller of the tournament after originally coming to New Zealand to play in the qualifying rounds and then being promoted into the main draw when others withdrew.

On her way to the final she has beaten eighth seed Sofia Arvidsson, top-seed Sharapova and fourth seed Goerges.

“I’m living a dream. I don’t know what to say, I’m so happy,” she said on making the final.

“I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life.”

Arn has won only one tournament in her career since turning professional 13 years ago, in Portugal in 2007.