WTA 250 – Internationaux de Strasbourg, France
Former World No 1 Angelique Kerber eventually found her way past first-time WTA finalist Kaja Juvan, 7-6 (5) 6-7(0) 7-6(5), after a 3 hour 16 minute see-saw battle in the Internationaux de Strasbourg final on Saturday.
It is the German’s 14th career singles title win, and her first on clay in more than 6 years, with her most recent clay-court trophy coming on home soil in Stuttgart in 2016.
Kerber battled through the 3 tiebreak sets to lift the trophy and level her head-to-head record with Juvan at 1-1.
Very little separated the two in the match, and they finished the final with 83 winners and 6 service breaks apiece.
The victory helps turn around Kerber’s season going into Roland Garros next week, where she is seeded 21.
“The third set, it was head-to-head, it was really close,” said Kerber, who moves to No 17 in the WTA rankings this week. “Playing three tiebreaks in the final shows that it was a really close and tough battle, and I’m really happy how I played at the end, and how I played the last point, actually!”
Juvan led 5-2 in the first set and held a set point at 5-4, but Kerber battled back from that deficit to reach the tiebreak, where her 4-1 lead disappeared when the Slovenian polished off a volley to reach 4-4.
Kerber used an error-forcing backhand to garner her first set point at 6-5, which she converted with a rally forehand winner.
After the 59-minute first set, a 62-minute second then ensued, and despite going just 2-for-10 on break points in the set, Juvan reached another tiebreak, where loose errors by Kerber gave her a 3-0 lead.
The 21-year old fired confident winners to sweep up the remaining points of the breaker to level the match.
It took 73 minutes to resolve the matter in a final tiebreak as the two duelled back and forth until Kerber deployed a winning drop-shot to reach double championship point at 6-4 before sealing the hard-fought title with a stunning cross-court, angled passing shot on her second chance.
The French Open is the only Grand Slam that Kerber has yet to win, and she starts her campaign against Magdalena Frech of Poland on Monday, while Juvan, who rises 13 spots to No 68 in the rankings, will face 19-year old qualifier Oksana Selekhmeteva, the 2021 girls’ doubles champion, in her Roland Garros opener.
Sunday’s doubles final also went down to the wire, with the first-time pairing of Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Daria Saville edging the No 1 seeds, Czech Lucie Hradecka & Sania Mirza from India, 5-7 7-5 [10-6].
From 3-0 down in the match tiebreak, the American-Aussie duo reeled off 8 straight points to take an 8-3 lead, then held on for the 1-hour and 55-minute win.
Melichar-Martinez is now up to 11 career WTA doubles titles, and also won the Strasbourg title in 2020 partnering Demi Schuurs.
Saville wins her 3rd career doubles title, and she also becomes a 2-time Strasbourg champion, having taken the title in 2019 alongside Ellen Perez.
WTA 250 – Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Rabat, Morocco
Italy’s Martina Trevisan won her first WTA title after beating 21-year old Claire Liu of the United States, 6-2 6-1, after an hour 32 minutes in the final of the Morocco Open on Saturday.
The No 85th-ranked Trevisan and 92nd-ranked Liu both were playing their first career final.
The 28-year old ended an 8-match winning streak for Liu, who was the Paris 125 champion the week prior to Rabat, while the 2020 Roland Garros quarter-finalist extended her 2022 record to 15-10 (7-4 in WTA main draws).
Trevisan was under some pressure to save 8 of 9 break points, but Liu made 44 unforced errors, while the Italian had 15 winners two fewer than the American’s 17, and 22 unforced errors.
Her late-blooming success comes after Trevisan spent much of her early career sidelined by anorexia and injury and, afterwards, she dedicated the win to her father Claudio.
“I would like to dedicate this trophy to my dad,” Trevisan said after the final. “He can’t see me in this moment but I know he would be very proud of me.
“He is a fighter like me during this week, but during his whole life — so this is for you, dad.”
The first set was closer than the scoreline suggests, with all but 2 of the games going to deuce, but Trevisan’s focus on the big points proved key as she won all 4 of the multi-deuce tussles and repelled 8 of those 9 break points across her service games.
Liu found early success employing chip-and-charge tactics, but she backed off this approach after Trevisan began to nail her passing shots.
In the second set, Trevisan went from strength to strength as Liu fell away after saving a break point to hold in the first game, but then lost 6 games on the trot, missing another break point along the way.
Trevisan is the 2nd player to claim her 1st WTA title this season, after Anastasia Potapova, and she is also the 4th Italian winner in Morocco, following Rita Grande at Casablanca 2003, Alberta Brianti at Fes 2011, and Francesca Schiavone at Marrakech 2013.
The Italian delivered 65% of her first-serves and won 63% of her first-serve points, while Liu put in 60% of her first serves but won only 38% points.
In terms of second serves, Trevisan won 50% of her points to the latter’s 35%.
After the Rabat Open, both head to Paris for the French Open where Trevisan plays Britain’s Harriet Dart in the first round and, if she comes through, she could play Ons Jabeur in round 2.
Meanwhile, Liu opens against 24th seed Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021, losing to eventual finalist, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
In the doubles, top seeds Eri Hozumi & Makoto Ninomiya from Japan took the title with a 6-7(7) 6-3 [10-8] win over the 2nd-seeds, Romania’s Monica Niculescu & Alexandra Panova in the final.
Hozumi & Ninomiya bounced back from a first set in which they saved the first 5 set points they faced before holding one of their own, only for Niculescu & Panova to save that and convert their 6th.
A single break of serve decided the second, and Hozumi & Ninomiya took control of the match tiebreak after coming back from 2-0 down.
The Japanese pair were runners-up at Roland Garros 2018, but only lifted their first trophy together at the Adelaide 250 in January.
Rabat is a 4th career title for Hozumi, and a 5th for Ninomiya.