Parma | WTA 250 Parma Ladies Open
Unseeded Mayar Sherif stunned Maria Sakkari, the No 1 seed from Greece, in the Parma Ladies Open final on Saturday to become the first woman from Egypt to win a WTA tournament.
I’m exhausted. Today was a very tough day for me, many hours on court. The first match was emotionally and mentally tough. There were so many key moments in the match, a lot of pressure. But after I won that match it gave me a lot of confidence so I used that for the match right after. I’m very happy that I pulled it off. I had to dig very deep. Mayar Sherif
The World No 74 defeated Sakkari, 7-5 6-3, notching up her first Top 10 win of her career.
“It means a lot for my country,” the 26-year old said after her win over the World No 7. “It means a lot for the people back home, my family, all the hard work, all the mental struggles in the last weeks.
“I’m just thrilled and happy. This was never expected.”
With play cancelled on Friday due to the inclement weather, Sherif had to battle past No 6 seed Ana Bogdan from Romania, 6-4 3-6 6-4, in her earlier semi-final on Saturday ahead of the final.
It was a gruelling effort to win after 2 hour and 50 minutes against Bogdan and then take out Sakkari after a hour and 36 minutes of play.
“I’m exhausted,” Sherif admitted after the final. “Today was a very tough day for me, many hours on court.
“The first match was emotionally and mentally tough. There were so many key moments in the match, a lot of pressure. But after I won that match it gave me a lot of confidence so I used that for the match right after.
“I’m very happy that I pulled it off. I had to dig very deep.”
Meanwhile, Sakkari had eased through to her first final since Indian Wells with a 7-5 6-2 win over Danka Kovinic from Montenegro, and was heavily favoured to lift the trophy.
Playing in just her 2nd career WTA final, Sherif fell behind an early break at 2-0, before buckling down to break Sakkari 4 times in the opening set.
She pounced on Sakkari’s serve while converting all 4 break points she carved out in the first set, playing a physical, disciplined game from the baseline.
Serving to force a tiebreak at 5-6, Sakkari failed to convert 3 game points from 40-15 up and then misfired on back-to-back forehands to drop the set after 54 minutes.
Sakkari once again earned an early break in the second at 2-0 but failed to hold onto her lead as she continued to misfire against Sherif’s relentless consistency.
Sherif broke back and levelled the set at 2-2, losing just one further game before finishing the match with 10 winners to 11 unforced errors and generating 13 break points, converting 6 of them, while Sakkari struck 22 winners to 22 unforced errors.
Sakkari was bidding to win her first title since winning Rabat in 2019 and the loss drops her record in WTA finals to 1-5.
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has been blazing a trail for African and Arab women’s tennis, and Sherif, who will climb into the top 50 as a result of her win, has now written her own piece of history.
In doubles, the unseeded Czech team of Anastasia Detiuc & Miriam Kolodziejova came from a set down to defeat Arantxa Rus & Tamara Zidansek, 1-6 6-3 [10-8], to win their first title.
Tallinn | WTA 250 Tallinn Open
On Saturday, top seed Anett Kontaveit defeated compatriot Kaia Kanepi, 6-4 6-4, to set up a Tallinn Open final meeting with Barbora Krejcikova, who eked out her semi-final win against Belinda Bencic, 6-7(5) 7-6(2) 6-2.
It took Kontaveit 80 minutes to get past Kanepi in the clash of Estonians, although the older, Kanepi, won the higher margin of first-serve points, 78% to Kontaveit’s 70%.
26-year old Kontaveit, however, won more second-serve points, 59% to Kanepi’s 33% to hold her ground across the match, which saw her finish with 23 winners, 5 more than her opponent’s 18, and she also had 17 unforced errors, 8 fewer than Kanepi’s 25.
“I felt like I was confident in what I came to do here today on the court, and I felt like I made it happen really well,” Kontaveit said after her win.
“I started aggressive and was playing confidently”.
She also spoke about the significance of two home favourites playing each other in front of home fans.
“I think it was a special moment for [Kanepi and I] sharing the court here, being in Tallinn in front of the home crowd, of course,” she said. It was a special experience and I was trying to enjoy it as much as I could.
Meanwhile, Krejcikova needed 3 hours and 22 minutes to get the better of Bencic, the No 2 seed from Switzerland, the 7th-seeded Czech coming from a set down to eventually prevail.
Krejcikova had 20 break point chances on the Swiss’ serve, but Bencic saved 17 of these, while the Czech faced just 2 break points herself, of which she conceded just one.
The Tallinn Open final on Sunday will be the 3rd time Kontaveit and Krejcikova will meet, having split their previous 2 meetings with the Czech winning their most recent match-up in Sydney at the start of the season.