Gaiba, Italy | Van Uytvanck wins inaugural WTA 125 ‘Gaibledon’

Top-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck from Belgium won the inuagural Veneto Open Internazionali Confindustria Venezia e Rovigo title without dropping a set, culminating in a 6-4 6-3 final win over Italian Sara Errani in 68 minutes on Sunday.

The court was tricky, so you have to be aggressive. Try to go to net as fast as possible. Serve well, return well, and just be focused all the time. That's what you have to do on grass. Alison van Uytvanck

The Veneto Open is taking place in Gaiba, a town of less than 1,000 inhabitants, which makes it the smallest town in the world to host a WTA tournament, and the first played on natural grass in Italy on former soccer fields, while the host tennis club has been nicknamed ‘Gaibledon’ in homage to Wimbledon.

It is Van Uytvanck’s 3rd career trophy at WTA 125 level, following Taipei 2013 and Limoges 2021, while the Belgian has also win 5 WTA 250 titles, with the most recent coming in Nur-Sultan last September.

The title run continues a stellar 2022 grass-court season for the Belgian, with her record on the surface this year now standing at 12-1, having also triumphed at the Surbiton ITF W100 two weeks ago and her only loss during this spell coming in a 3rd-set tiebreak against Aryna Sabalenka in the ‘s-Hertogenbosch quarter-finals last week.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” said Van Uytvanck afterwards. “I just wanted to have as many possible matches on grass.

“I never thought I would be able to win 12 matches. I just hope I can keep it going another two weeks and have a great run at Wimbledon as well.

“Being able to play 7-6 in the third with someone like Sabalenka, who’s been Top 10 for some years now – that means something for me.

“The level is there. Beating [Elise] Mertens, who’s been in the Top 30 for four or five years now. These are things that give you confidence.”


Alison Van Uytvanck is producing an impressive run on grass

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Van Uytvanck has thrived on grass throughout her career and, last year, she also won the Nottingham ITF W100 title while, in 2018, she upset defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza en route to the 4th round of Wimbledon.

The 28-year-old’s combination of a formidable serve and superb hand skills was showcased once again on the low-bouncing courts of Gaiba, where only Harmony Tan in the semi-finals took her as far as a tiebreak.

Former World No 5 Errani’s talents were also enhanced by the conditions in Gaiba, and despite the Italian’s ranking having fallen to No 213, her court-craft and ability to excel at net were both on show this week.

Errani kicked off her tournament with a 6-2 3-6 7-5 upset of American No 2 seed Madison Brengle in the first round, and went on to the very first grass-court final of her career at the age of 35.

The Italian said her game on the grass courts is benefitting from her experience playing doubles and padel — a game popular in Italy that is played on courts about 25% smaller than those used in tennis and which prizes volleying.

“My versatility was awarded,” Errani said after her semi-final win over Parry. “I’ve got the support of the Italian crowd here and my family.”


Sara Errani found form on the new grass courts of Italy

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Van Uytvanck, though, proved too strong in the final and the World No 47 dropped only 4 points behind her first serve, saved 5 of the 6 break points she faced, and sealed her first championship point after Errani netted a backhand volley.

“The court was tricky, so you have to be aggressive,” said Van Uytvanck afterwards. “Try to go to net as fast as possible.

“Serve well, return well, and just be focused all the time. That’s what you have to do on grass.

“There was one side where you had to play more short, low balls because it wasn’t bouncing as much. I saw Sara was also doing that a little bit.

“It was more like we were playing chess at one point than tennis. But it’s fun if someone else is also seeing the game like that. You have fun together and may the best person win. Chess tennis, it’s a new sport!”

The tournament’s two semi-finalists were also players known for their touch and improvisational ability.

Tan upset 3rd-seeded Lucia Bronzetti from Italy, 4-6 6-2 6-4, in the 2nd-round, and went on to the last 4 of a tournament for the first time at any level in 2022.

No 6 seed Diane Parry from France, who made waves at Roland Garros with a first-round upset of defending champion Barbora Krejcikova from Czech Republic, also continued her superb form.

The 19-year-old had previously delivered her most notable results on clay, but her single-handed backhand proved that it could transfer well to grass as she overcame the relentless slicing of Germany’s Tatjana Maria, 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the quarter-finals.


Doubles winners Claire Liu & Madison Brengle pose with their trophies

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In the doubles, the unseeded American duo of Madison Brengle & Claire Liu also became Gaiba champions without dropping a set, defeating Vitalia Diatchenko & Oksana Kalashnikova from Georgia, 6-4 6-3, to claim the title.

Brengle & Liu had previously won singles WTA 125 titles before, but it was a career-best doubles success for both players.



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