Very little separated them, and it took a 3rd-set tiebreak to resolve it, but Spain’s Paula Badosa emerged as the Sydney Tennis Classic champion after an enthralling 2 hour 22 minute battle with Czech Barbora Krejcikova on Saturday.
Details [made the difference]. Maybe one winner that I hit, one serve, maybe she missed one ball. Sometimes, these kind of matches, it's one point or two. I had the same experience in Indian Wells final. It changes for nothing. I'm really happy that I won my way. I think the good thing is that I played in a very high level and that I fought until the end. Paula Badosa
In fact, they both won an equal number of points in the match – 98 of the total 196 played – but it was Badosa who edged it in the breaker, 6-3 4-6 7-6(4).
“Super excited!” Badosa said on court after her win. “After the level of this final, even more. Amazing week, amazing final. I’m very happy!”
Krejcikova, the World No 4 and reigning Roland Garros champion, was the marginal favourite for the title over Badosa, ranked 9, and she had needed to save 7 match points to sneak past Anett Kontaveit in the semi-finals, demonstrating how deft she is at clawing her way out of a tricky situations.
It was Badosa, however, who improved to 3-0 in her career in WTA finals, having won 2 titles last year, a WTA 250 on clay in Belgrade in May, and then her most famous victory so far, capturing the WTA 1000 title in Indian Wells in October.
It all came down to the wire for the two biggest movers into the Top 10 of the 2021 season.
Krejcikova started 2021 ranked 65 and Badosa was even lower at 70, but both had career-best seasons to finish the year among the elite and earned spots at the year-end Akron WTA Finals.
Badosa, though, had Krejcikova’s number coming into the Sydney final, holding a 2-0 head-to-head lead and this latest encounter was to be the first time the Czech claimed a set against her.
On Saturday, both demonstrated true grit, determination and great skills as they vied with one another for the title.
Badosa made her big move in the first set when she slammed 3 aces in a row to hold for 3-3, while powerful forehands helped the Spaniard grab a critical break in the very next game, and she closed out the opener with a break to love behind overwhelming service returns.
The Spaniard looked to be closing in on a straight-set victory in the second, with Krejcikova serving at 3-6, 3-4, 0-15, but the Czech held firm as she amped up her aggression and, just as she had in her semi-final, the 3rd seed orchestrated a much-needed break at 4-4 with a winning forehand, before serving out the set with ease to level the affair.
Badosa took the early 2-0 lead in the decider, but Krejcikova struck right back and, once again, the Czech was determined to stage a come-back victory. as the pair moved into the final tiebreak with no more breaks of serve on either hand.
Once in the breaker, Badosa caught fire again, winning 5 of 6 points from 2-1 down to build up to triple match point at 6-3 and, after Krejcikova fought one of them off with a barrage of big groundstrokes that ultimately drew an error from Badosa, the Spaniard rifled a backhand down the line on her second to close out the WTA 500 victory.
“Details [made the difference],” said Badosa. “Maybe one winner that I hit, one serve, maybe she missed one ball.
“Sometimes, these kind of matches, it’s one point or two. I had the same experience in Indian Wells final. It changes for nothing.
“I’m really happy that I won my way. I think the good thing is that I played in a very high level and that I fought until the end.
“It’s very nice, as I said in the ceremony, [Krejcikova and I] broke into the Top 100, it was like the same year, almost the same week.
“So it’s very nice to now be both in Top 10 and playing big finals, and I hope we can play much more, because it’s very nice to play against her.”
Badosa heads into the Australian Open with a major boost to her confidence this year, now 3-0 against Krejcikova, having beaten the Czech at both Madrid and Indian Wells last year, both by an identical scoreline of 6-1 7-5.
She opens against Aussie hope Ajla Tomljanovic, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist last year. Badosa beat Tomljanovic in the second round this week.
“Of course [winning the title] gives me a lot of confidence, especially with the level I have played this week,” said Badosa. “Of course [I am] tired.
“I play Monday. I will have to fly tonight, so let’s see how I recover. But I will try to give my best there. I’m playing in a high level. Let’s see. I’m looking forward to it.”
Krejcikova opens against Andrea Petkovic of Germany and could play Badosa again in a week and a half, as they are projected to clash in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park where the Czech is the No 4 seed and the Spaniard is seeded 8th.
They both have their work cut out for them to get to the final 8, though, with Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka among the players Krejcikova could face before that, and Badosa’s path potentially including Sofia Kenin, Coco Gauff or Adelaide champion Madison Keys.
The doubles final also came down to the bitter end, with Kazakhstan’s Anna Danilina & Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil outlasting Germany’s Vivian Heisen & Panna Udvardy from Hungary, 4-6 7-5 [10-8].
After eking out the second set, Danilina & Haddad Maia took a commanding 9-2 lead in the match tiebreak before Heisen & Udvardy chipped away at their lead, saving 6 championship points in a row to pull to 9-8.
At last, Danilina & Haddad Maia took their 7th chance to close out the nail-biter after an hour and 35 minutes.
Both of the victors remain undefeated in WTA doubles finals as Danilina improves to 2-0 in appearances, adding to her title from Gdynia last season, while Haddad Maia is now 3-0 in doubles finals, with her previous trophies both coming at Bogota in 2015 and 2017.