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Tennis

After overcoming series of injuries, CoCo Vandeweghe back in contention

CoCo Vandeweghe will play against Bernarda Pera in Sunday's Thoreau Tennis Open final.Kevin Paul Dupont

CONCORD — CoCo Vandeweghe, ranked No. 9 in the WTA world rankings as recently as January 2019, has fought through a frustrating, even bizarre array of injuries in the last few years.

The start of it all — before an unfortunate mishap with a microwave oven — was the wonky foot/ankle injury that cropped up inexplicably during her stay at Wimbledon in 2018.

“Overnight, I couldn’t walk,” Vandeweghe recalled here Saturday afternoon after advancing to the Thoreau Tennis Open final with her 6-4, 6-3 win over China’s Qiang Wang. “It meant relearning how to walk and move and run … that took about eight months to feel I could play tennis again. I’d kept playing on it, post-Wimbledon. Wrong decision. Should have taken time off. Live and learn, right?”

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Vandeweghe, 30, once a pro-circuit newbie with the WTT Lobsters lineup when they were based in Worcester (2010-11), will face Croatian-born Bernarda Pera here in Thoreau’s WTA 125 final on Sunday.

Pera, 27, a hard-hitting lefty, dispatched 18-year-old Californian Katrina Scott, 6-4, 6-2, in the day’s latter semifinal match that lasted only 1:13.

Pera and Vandeweghe have opposed each other only once before, with Pera finishing on top in a three-setter in Adelaide, Australia, in 2018.

“That was a good one … a long one … it ended 7-5 or 7-6 in the third,” recalled Pera, who arrived in Thoreauville after filching back-to-back titles in Europe (Budapest; Hamburg) last month. “She’s an aggressive player. Big serve. Big forehand. Even with the injuries she’s had, she’s just a great player.”

The 6-foot-1-inch Vandeweghe, after clinching the opening set Saturday, fell behind, 2-1, when Wang broke her in the third game of the second set. But she broke right back to level at 2-2, and then gained a foothold in the match when she again broke Wang to make it 4-2. She served out the 6-3 clincher, battling back from 15-40 and winning on her first match-point chance.

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“I thought I handled adversity well today,” said Vandeweghe, tracking for a return to the US Open, where, despite a tender foot, she won the doubles title in 2018, partnered with Ashleigh Barty. “I think I could have done a better job on second serves — get them in play earlier, make them feel pressure.

“But overall, you can’t be upset about winning.”

A title here, though it might pale in comparison to the days when she regularly played in Grand Slam events, would be extra meaningful for Vandeweghe. She hasn’t won a WTA title since prior to the extended COVID shutdown in 2020, which she made all the longer with her, shall we say, ham-fisted work in the kitchen.

“Yeah, sliced off my pinkie,” said Vandeweghe, lifting her left hand to show a visitor her repaired, albeit slightly crooked digit. “So I couldn’t use my left hand. So, yeah, it means I’m back working on my two-handed backhand again.”

The finger fell prey to an overheated bowl that exploded, said Vandeweghe, as she pulled it out of the microwave at her home near San Diego.

“It was too hot, and should have been on the stove,” she recalled. “A bad mistake.”

The finger required full reconstructive surgery, said Vandeweghe, the explosion tearing up two ligaments and a nerve.

“I still don’t have full movement on it,” she said, flexing the slightly stubborn finger as proof, prior to heading into the gym for her post-match workout. “But do the best with what you’ve got, right?”

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On Sunday, Vandeweghe also will play for a doubles title, paired with Moscovite Varvara Flink. Following her win over Wang in singles, Vandeweghe partnered with Flink in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Mirjam Bjorklund (Sweden) and Fernanda Contreras Gomez (Mexico).

Sunday’s final match of the day, following the singles matchup that begins at noon, will see Vandeweghe and Flink face Peangtarn Plipuech (Thailand) and Moyuka Uchijima (Japan) for the doubles title.

The Pera-Vandeweghe final will feature two hard hitters, with Pera slightly smaller and more agile, perhaps more inclined to come to the net.

Faced with Scott, a vigilant retriever, on Saturday, Pera won her first two games, but needed extra time for her serve to get in sync. She leveled at 2-2, in the first set, winning a service game that took her 14 points and 10 minutes to get the job done. Later, she broke Scott for a 5-4 lead to grab hold of the first set, then breezed through the second.

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The Vandeweghe-Wang match drew a crowd upward of 300, and then only some 200 watched Pera-Scott . . . Vandeweghe fondly recalled her Bay State days with the Lobsters. “I got to see a Sox game!” she recalled. “I was so young and just kinda enjoying the summer out here on the East Coast ... really had a great time. Bud Schultz was the coach and he was amazing. I made friends for life off those teams, with Eric Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill. I’m still in touch with all those people.” . . . In contrast to the suffocating heat and humidity earlier in the week, play on Saturday was mostly under a partly sunny sky and temps in the mid-70s, what one visitor suggested to Vandeweghe was more like California weather. “A little cold,” she said, adding with a laugh, “but I like it.”

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Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.