17-year old Linda Fruhvirtova claimed her first WTA title at the Chennai Open on Sunday, when she recovered from a set down and 1-4 in the decider to defeat 3rd-seeded Magda Linette from Poland, 4-6 6-3 6-4, after a 2 hour 38 minute battle.
I just started believing again, and being confident, just fighting for every point. Linda Fruhvirtova
The young Czech is now projected to make her top 100 debut at No 74 in the WTA rankings on Monday.
Fruhvirtova capped off a magnificent week at the WTA 250 event in India, showing her maturity and determination to come back, twice, in a final that looked destined for Linette’s hands.
In front of a large crowd at the SDAT Tennis Stadium, Fruhvirtova became the youngest winner since Coco Gauff in 2021 at Parma, as well as the youngest Czech to do so since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006 in Strasbourg.
“I am pretty much in shock and don’t have the right words,” a visibly emotional Fruhvirtova said on court afterwards. “It’s unbelievable. Again, great atmosphere to play in and something I will always remember.”
It was Fruhvirtova’s second straight 3-setter and, in the first set, she seemed a step slower, having spent 3 hours more than Linette on court this week.
The 30-year old Pole, ranked 67 in the world, took the first set in the sweltering Chennai heat, but Fruhvirtova, who seemed to have more in the tank, won the second before coming from behind to clinch the decider.
“… nothing but love for Chennai,” Fruhvirtova continued on court. “I left my heart out during these matches and it is something I will remember for ever.”
The Czech teenager came into the tournament ranked 130, last year became at, 16, the youngest player to enter the top WTA 400 rankings and, in March, reached the last 16 of the Miami Open.
Here, in the semi-final, she came back from a set down to beat Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, 5-7 6-2 6-4, while Linette reached the final after Britain’s Katie Swan threw in the towel after just 3 games, exhausted and feeling ill from a 3-hour quarter-final against Japan’s Nao Hibino that lasted until 3 am in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Linette was the early leader on Sunday as she broke for 5-4 in the first set with a forehand winner off of a drop-shot and, finding herself ahead for the first time all day, the Pole ran with her advantage, holding serve to love to wrap up the one-set lead.
Fruhvirtova dug in, and earned her first break of the day for a 5-3 lead in the second, levelling the match by consolidating in the next game, and closing out a set in which she never faced a break point.
A forehand winner gave Linette the first break of the decider for a 3-1 lead, and after holding for 4-1, the Pole appeared to be in charge when she called for a medical timeout and received treatment on court.
It broke her momentum and allowed Fruhvirtova to take stock.
“It was still just one break [in the third set] and [Linette] had a chance to go up for 5-1, and that would be really bad,” Fruhvirtova said in her post-match press conference. “So, I think, the fact that I went 2-4, it helped me, I still had a chance.
“I just started believing again, and being confident, just fighting for every point.”
The Czech used powerful hitting to pull back on serve at 4-3, moved ahead by a break at 5-4 with a sterling return, and never relinquished that advantage, collecting the last 5 games, and converting her first championship point in the last to seal her first title.
“I was feeling good in my game, and I knew that I could do a good result here, but it was much better than we all probably expected,” Fruhvirtova said. “I’m pretty much in shock.
“It feels amazing, and I feel like it’s a great start for me to keep building on this.”
The Chennai final was a bold victory for Fruhvirtova, who converted half of her 6 break points while fending off 7 of the 9 she faced.
Sunday also proved to be a huge day for the Fruhvirtova family as Linda’s younger sister, Brenda, racked up her 5th straight ITF Challenger title, this time in Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy, extending the 15-year old’s match-winning streak to 25 in ITF Challenger events.
In an echo of the Williams sisters dynasty, Brenda is now ranked 195, having risen 3 places in the WTA rankings.
Meanwhile, despite the loss, a trip to her 5th career final means 67th-ranked Linette rises to No 51, having achieved a career-high ranking of 33 in 2020.
In Sunday’s Chennai doubles final, No 1 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski & Luisa Stefani rolled past Anna Blinkova & Natela Dzalamidze, 6-1 6-2, in just 58 minutes to clinch the title.
Canada’s Dabrowski & Stefani from Brazil were one of last summer’s most successful teams before Stefani suffered a knee injury during their 2021 US Open semi-final match.
The win caps the Brazilian’s return to tour in her first event in almost exactly one year, and could not have been more successful as she and Dabrowski earned their 2nd title together.
Dabrowski now holds 12 career WTA doubles titles, while Stefani’s total rises to 4 career WTA doubles titles.