Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia won the biggest title of her career at L’ Open 35 de Saint-Malo, a WTA 125 event, on Sunday, with a 7-6(3) 6-3 victory over Anna Blinkova.
I’m a very hard worker, so I think I deserve to be there, and I need to improve my game a little bit more to be better than Top 50. So I’ll work very hard to reach that. Beatriz Haddad Maia
Haddad Maia, the 4th seed, was successful in her first WTA 125 final, defeating unseeded Blinkova in just over 2 hours on the red clay in France.
The 25-year old dropped just one set on her way to her title win and, as a result, rises 13 places in the WTA Rankings to World No 52 this week.
A 78-minute first set saw Haddad Maia and Blinkova exchange breaks twice, but the Brazilian notched up 7 of the last 8 points in the tiebreak to clinch the lengthy opener.
Sterling drop-shots helped Haddad Maia break for 2-0 in the second, but Blinkova showed off her own skill with the drop-shot when she used 2 in a row off her backhand to pull back on serve at 3-2.
She then stumbled by misfiring wide on another drop-shot attempt on break point at 4-3, allowing Haddad Maia to serve for the title.
At 30-30, a backhand winner gave the Brazilian No 1 her first championship point, which she converted after Blinkova returned a strong serve into the net.
Haddad Maia, a powerful left-hander, saved 7 of the 10 break points she faced in the final to complete the week.
“I’m very happy, for sure,” Haddad Maia said. “It’s very special to be back here in Saint-Malo. I was here a few years ago, and I was very proud to come back.
“Most of [this week’s] matches I had to fight more, to be humble, to work very hard and have discipline. So I’m very happy with myself because of that.”
After another strong performance within the last 12 months, Haddad Maia is getting closer to a Top 50 debut in the near future.
Her current career-high ranking of 52 betters the No 58 she obtained in September 2017 after she reached her lone Hologic WTA Tour singles final in Seoul.
“It’s important,” said Haddad Maia. “I’m a very hard worker, so I think I deserve to be there, and I need to improve my game a little bit more to be better than Top 50.
“So I’ll work very hard to reach that.”
Haddad Maia has had an eventful season in doubles as well, posting a 9 match doubles winning streak paired with Anna Danilina at the start of the year, winning the Sydney title and reaching her first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open.
Despite the loss, it still proved to be a good week for the 23-year-old Blinkova, who was seeking her 2nd WTA 125 title after taking the 2019 New Haven championship on hard court.
Blinkova, a former World No 54 whose ranking has dipped out of the Top 100 where she now sits at 120, won 4 straight 3-set matches to make it to this week’s final in a run that included a quarter-final victory over American Bernarda Pera in which Blinkova saved 2 match points.
“[Blinkova is] a very good player, she’s a fighter,” said Haddad Maia. “I know her from a few years ago, she’s always working hard, so for sure she will have a great future as well.
“I hope we can have more battles like this one.”
Also on Sunday, the Saint-Malo doubles title went to No 2 seeds Eri Hozumi & Makoto Ninomiya, after the all-Japanese team beat the unseeded French pairing of Estelle Cascino & Jessika Ponchet, 7-6(1) 6-1.
In a final that featured 12 breaks of serve combined, Hozumi & Ninomiya won 81 percent of points returning second serves en route to the 91-minute victory.
Hozumi & Ninomiya also won the WTA 250 Adelaide title in January, and were Roland Garros runners-up in 2018.