Melbourne Park, 15 December 2011 | Matt Trollope

The finalists at the Optus 12s Australian Championships have been decided, with third seed Destanee Aiava and No.15 seed Petra Hule both winning their semifinals in straight sets at Melbourne Park today.

In the boys’ event, it was Chase Ferguson and Nathanael Consalvo – the third and fourth seeds respectively – who moved through to the final, both also in straight sets.

Hule was the first to progress to the championship match, hitting out strongly beneath sunny skies on Court 7 and proving too powerful for her 10th-seeded opponent, Alexandra Bozovic.

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Hule, who has cut a swathe through the girls’ draw this week with upset wins over No.2 Julia Makridis and fifth seed Monique Belovukovic, continued her excellent form against Bozovic, cruising to a 6-3 6-2 win.

She said it was her ability to hit winners throughout the contest that proved the difference.

“[It’s the] first time that I’ve got to the finals of the Nationals, so I’m really excited … I think I played really well,” she said.

A clean forehand winner down the line allowed Hule to pocket the first set, but she encountered a minor bump in the road when Bozovic lifted her game in the early stages of the second and skipped out to a 2-0 lead.

But the 15th seed found her range again, smacking a crosscourt backhand winner to get on the board and kicking off a run of six consecutive games to take the match.

Destanee fulfilled

Hule’s next opponent will be Aiava, who came through a high-quality semifinal against top seed Seone Mendez.

“I played Destanee yesterday in doubles, and she’s a very strong hitter … I think I’ll have confidence [going into the final] and I think I will try and put in my all and see how I go,” Hule said.

The battle between first and third seeds was really worthy of a final, with Aiava and Mendez producing some stunning rallies before a sizeable crowd on Court 6.

Mendez, who had lost to Aiava 12 months prior and had won just one game in the process, performed far more strongly today, and the opening set initially went game for game.

But Aiava began to gain the upper hand, her relentless, accurate and powerful hitting forcing a growing number of errors from the top seed’s racquet. She raced through the next four games to take a one-set lead.

Mendez hit back strongly in the second set, guiding a backhand winner up the line to lead 2-0 and then immediately breaking serve for 3-0. But the fragility of the first set soon returned to her game, and suddenly Aiava had reeled off another run of four straight games to take the lead.

Down 15-40 in the eighth game, it appeared Mendez’s days in the tournament were numbered. Yet she fought back admirably, capitalising on three consecutive Aiava errors to level the score at 4-4.

The third seed shrugged off this lapse, producing a powerful backhand winner to hold for 5-4 and then displaying magnificent defence in the following game – running down a Mendez smash and then stab volley – before winning the point.

Two points later, a Mendez error gave Aiava the win. She said she was surprised to find herself in the final.

“I think I played the best [I have] in the whole tournament so far … I didn’t try too hard to finish the ball too early [today],” she said.

“She [Hule] will be another tough opponent as well, and it will be a tough match [in the final] … [I will] just have fun and go out there and give it my best.”

Consalvo cruises

The boys’ semifinals followed the girls out onto Courts 6 and 7. Consalvo took on seventh-seeded Adam Walton, and looked on course for a routine path through to the final when he powered through the first set without conceding a game.

But Walton proved a tricky opponent, his defensive moon-balling style and relentless retrieving forcing the fourth-seeded Queenslander to play many balls and eventually lose his focus.

Consalvo dished up three double faults in the seventh game to hand Walton a break and 4-3 lead, which he consolidated on serve in the next game. Yet when it came time for Walton to serve for the set, he couldn’t deliver, and the set progressed to a tiebreak thanks to some devastating return winners from the No.4 seed.

Consalvo continued to feast on Walton’s delivery in the tiebreak and quickly moved ahead three points to zero. But getting a bit too pumped up as the finish line neared, Consalvo prematurely celebrated a winning point with a loud “c’mon” and was docked a point penalty for hindrance.

Thankfully, no Serena-esque tirade followed, and the Queenslander shrugged off the distraction to complete a 6-0 7-6(3) victory. He said it was a great privilege to be in the final.

“It is difficult [to play against Walton’s style] but you have to adapt … [in the] second set I just let my guard down pretty much, didn’t move as well, [and had] more unforced errors than in the first set,” he reflected.

“[I had to] take a deep breath and restart, think about how I won the first set so easily, and try to do the same play in the second set.”

Ferguson firing

Consalvo will next face Ferguson, after the third seed outhit No.1 seed Benard Nkomba in a 6-4 6-2 win. Having lost to Nkomba just days earlier in the 12s team championships, Ferguson said it was pleasing to reverse the result.

“I actually didn’t think I was going to win … I played really well today, and yeah, it was good,” he said after the match on Court 6.

“I think I was more aggressive [today]. I know in the second set the last time we met I was aggressive but then I became a little defensive. [Today] I just tried to stay up in the court and not let him dictate, and [my] first serve percentages [were good] as well.”

After taking a tight first set, Ferguson went up a level in the second, holding firm despite Nkomba’s expert retrieving and staying true to his powerful baseline game. He held serve after a struggle to lead 2-1, and scored another blow in the seventh game, winning a titanic rally by eventually forcing a Nkomba error from for a 5-2 lead.

It was the moment that broke Nkomba’s spirit. Serving to stay in the match, he sprayed three errors – and watched a massive Ferguson backhand whistle by for a winner – to surrender the game to love.

Ferguson said he was looking forward to tackling Consalvo in tomorrow’s final, an opponent he’s never faced.

“This is my first final of a Nationals, and I’m really happy to be there,” he said.

“I think it will be a good match [tomorrow]. He’s a really good player.”

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