Anna Karolina Schmiedlova lifted the inaugural Belgrade Ladies Open trophy with a straight-sets victory over second seed Arantxa Rus in the final of the WTA 125 event on Sunday.
I think I played better and better every day, and today was my best match in the last couple of months. I didn't believe I could win, but the conditions were so difficult that I didn't think about winning or losing. I was just thinking to survive the next point, the next game - so maybe that helped me that I couldn't overthink it. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
Unseeded, the Slovak World No 122 stormed to victory with a 6-3 6-3 win over f No.2 seed Arantxa Rus in the final, bringing Schmiedlova her first title in three years, having previously won at Katowice 2015, Bucharest 2015 and Bogota 2018.
“When I came here I had low confidence, and every match I won was a surprise,” said Schmiedlova. “So I appreciated every one.
“I think I played better and better every day, and today was my best match in the last couple of months.”
Prior to this week, Schmiedlova had lost in the second round of her last four main draws.
In Belgrade, she overcame that hurdle in gruelling fashion, coming back from 0-3 down in the 3rd set to beat Germany’s Jule Niemeier, 6-4 5-7 7-6(5) in two hours and 55 minutes ss temperatures in the Serbian capital rose to a high of 38°C.
“I didn’t believe I could win,” she recalled. “But the conditions were so difficult that I didn’t think about winning or losing.
“I was just thinking to survive the next point, the next game – so maybe that helped me that I couldn’t overthink it.”
Coming through such a tough battle was a key confidence boost for Schmiedlova, who went on to upset No 1 seed Anna Blinkova 4-6 6-3 6-1 in the quarter-finals and then triumphed over Rebecca Sramkova in an all-Slovak semi-final, 7-6(4), 6-1.
In the past, the 26-year-old has spoken of her constant quest to find ‘bravery’ and aggression on court, and that was crucial all week in Belgrade.
“It’s not natural to me, but I’m always trying,” she said. “Every word I say before a point is ‘Be brave, be brave’.
“It still sometimes doesn’t happen, but I know it’s important because otherwise I cannot beat players on this level.”
Schmiedlova, who reached a career high of World No 26 in October 2015, has not been ranked inside the Top 100 since September 2019, having been sidelined for six months in 2019 due to knee surgery, and finding herself stuck there due to the Covid-19 rankings freeze.
Victory this week will lift her back to the edge of that echelon once more.
Other noteworthy performances in Belgrade included Rus, who made her second 125 final of the year without dropping a set.
The Dutchwoman defeated No 5 seed Martina Trevisan, 6-1 6-4 in the quarter-finals and No 4 seed Andrea Petkovic from German, 7-5 6-2, in the semi-finals.
Rus fell to 0-3 in 125 finals against Schmiedlova, though, having previously lost to Belinda Bencic at Taipei 2017 and Jasmine Paolini in Bol this June.
Qualifying wildcard Tara Wurth, 18, was also impressive, reaching the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-1 upset of No 7 seed Irina Bara from Romania before falling 6-4 6-4 to Petkovic.
The Croatian teenager, ranked 671, improved her record to 38-12 in 2021 with the career-best run.
In doubles, Belarusian No 2 seeds Olga Govortsova & Lidziya Marozava captured the title with a 6-2 6-2 win over Russians Alena Fomina & Ekaterina Yashina in the final.
Marozava improved her winning streak to 6, having also been crowned Gdynia doubles champion last week alongside Anna Danilina.