American top seed Danielle Collins won her first WTA Tour title at the Ladies Palermo Open on Sunday without dropping a set all week, while at the BNP Paribas Poland Open Belgian Maryna Zanevska topped Kristina Kucova of Slovakia to take the Gdynia title
When I went on the court, I knew I was up against a tough opponent who’s been playing really well, who’s really been on a roll the last couple of weeks. I knew what I needed to do, but at times there were some moments where she was playing some really great tennis and it gave me some challenges. Danielle Collins
Collins, who was seeded No 1 at a WTA tournament for the first time, became the 14th first-time singles champion of the year, streaking through 8 of the last 10 games to defeat Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse, 6-4 6-2.
“It’s given me so much self-confidence to finally win a tournament, because I’ve been on tour now for a couple of years, and that was one of my goals,” Collins told the press after her win.
The American converted 5 of 16 break points, snapping Ruse’s 12-match winning streak with a 1 hour 50-minute victory.
Ranked 44, Collins was 0-for-6 in tour-level semi-final matches before entering her first WTA singles final with a win over Zhang Shuai on Saturday and her win over the World No 137 avenged a very recent loss to Ruse, who beat her in the Hamburg quarter-finals earlier this month, en route to her first WTA singles title as a qualifier.
Palermo was Ruse’s first event since her run to the Hamburg title, and she was aiming to claim her second straight title as a qualifier, but Collins who levelled their head-to-head with the Palermo win.
They were evenly matched on their second-service success rate in the hard-hitting match, but Collins proved sturdier behind her first serves, winning 64 percent of those points, while Ruse could claim only 55 percent behind her first delivery.
“When I went on the court, I knew I was up against a tough opponent who’s been playing really well, who’s really been on a roll the last couple of weeks,” Collins added. “I knew what I needed to do, but at times there were some moments where she was playing some really great tennis and it gave me some challenges.
“I had to fight for every single point, and I had to be really mentally engaged the entire way through.
“I needed to be on top of my tactics, to make technical adjustments along the way, so I was having to work through a bunch of different things throughout the match, with the challenges she was throwing my way.”
Ruse raced out to a 4-2 lead before Collins broke back levelling after 8 games and she broke again to take a one-set lead, repeatedly cracking her backhand down the line with ambition to gain a measure of dominance.
The Romanian needed a medical time-out at 2-2 in the second, but soldiered on and fought off 3 break points at 3-2, but Collins was not to be denied, converting her 4th break point of that game with a backhand crosscourt winner that kissed the sideline.
At 5-2, another return winner gave Collins her first championship point, and the American converted that chance to enter the winner’s circle for the very first time.
“I’ve been improving, clearly, based on my results and being able to go longer with my stamina throughout the events,” Collins said. “That was my main goal in playing all of the tournaments the last four weeks. It was just really rewarding to think about.”
Collins rises to No 35 in the live rankings as a result of her title run.
Earlier on Sunday, No 4 seeds Erin Routliffe of New Zealand & Kimberley Zimmermann of Belgium won the Palermo doubles title, overcoming the all-Russian tandem of Natela Dzalamidze & Kamilla Rakhimova, 7-6(5) 4-6 [10-4].
In a match that took nearly 2 hours, Routliffe & Zimmermann dominated the beginning and the end of the match tiebreak to eke out the victory.
It is the first WTA title for both of the victors. Zimmermann was in her very first WTA final, while Routliffe had previously finished as a doubles runner-up at the 2018 Citi Open in Washington, DC.
In Sicily, Maryna Zanevska claimed her maiden WTA Tour title on Sunday after a 6-4 7-6(4) victory over Kristina Kucova at the BNP Paribas Poland Open in Gdynia.
Both players were vying for their first WTA singles titles, and it was the Belgian who battled back from double-breaks down in both sets to claim victory over the Slovakian.
The World No 165 reached her first quarter and semi finals in Lausanne last week, losing to eventual winner Tamara Zidansek, but the 27-year-old built on her performances to claim victory after an hour and 51 minutes.
The semi-final showing in Lausanne earned Zanevska a special-exempt entry into the Gdynia main draw, and she took the opportunity with both hands, gritting out comebacks in both challenging frames to earn the straight-set win over 150th-ranked Kucova.
Zanevska was excellent returning second serves, winning two-thirds of those points en route to collecting 20 break points and although Kucova boldly saved 14 of those chances, it was not enough to stem the tide.
The Belgian is now 8-1 in her last 9 matches and projected to re-enter the Top 120 after her week in Gdynia as she approaches matching her career-high ranking of World No 105.
Kucova got off to the better start as her double-handed shots from both sides earned her 2 breaks of serve and a 3-0 lead in the opener, but Zanevska stormed back with aplomb, winning 6 of the next 7 games to steal the first set from the Slovak.
In the second, Kucova again broke Zanevska twice in succession and led 3-0, but the Belgian used a mix of impeccable groundstroke depth and deft drop-shots to reel off 5 games in a row and serve for the championship at 5-3.
Kucova did not yield, breaking Zanevska with ease to pull back on serve at 5-4 but more fantastic returns from the Belgian finally yielded her 4 match points on the Slovakian delivery at 6-5,
Again Kucova’s powerful shot-making at the end of increasingly tense rallies got her out of trouble and set up a second-set tiebreak.
Kucova had already pulled off a dramatic comeback in the Gdynia quarter-finals when the 31-year-old saved 4 match points but prevailed to win the longest match of the year.
She could not repeat that achievement in the final, though, as 3 miscues sent long from 3-3 in the breaker handed Zanevska 3 more match points and Zanevska at last converted her 6th championship point to clinch victory.
Earlier on Sunday, the doubles title went to the No 3 seeds Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan & Lidziya Marozava of Belarus, who defeated the No 4 seeds, Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine & Katarzyna Piter of Poland, 6-3 6-2, in the final.
Danilina & Marozava romped to victory in 63 minutes, converting 7 of their 11 break points in the match.
The win completed a triumphant week for the victors, who were pushed to a match tiebreak in their opening round, but won their last two rounds in straight sets.
It is the second WTA doubles title for 28-year-old Marozava, who claimed the Luxembourg crown in 2017 alongside Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove while, for the 25-year-old Danilina, Gdynia marks her first title in her first WTA final.