The Argentina Open
The Argentina Open in Buenos Aires returned to the WTA Tour after a 34 year absence and the occasion was marked by Hungary’s Anna Bondar, who claimed her biggest career title, by lifting the trophy on Sunday.
It feels amazing. It's my first but, hopefully, not the last. As they say, the first one is always special, so Buenos Aires is going to take a special place in my heart. I improved mentally [this year]. In the middle of the summer I had a kind of click. I played bigger tournaments and I had big wins, so I got more confident. I started to believe I belong to this level. I think my game has just been in one piece all week. Anna Bondar
The No 3 seed captured her first WTA 125 title with a 6-3 6-3 win over France’s Diane Parry, the 5th seed, in one hour 19 minutes, adding her name to a trophy which was last won by by former World No 3 Gabriela Sabatini, who defeated Isabel Cueto from Germany, 6-0 6-2, in the 1987 final.
“It feels amazing,” said Bondar after her win. “It’s my first but, hopefully, not the last.
“As they say, the first one is always special, so Buenos Aires is going to take a special place in my heart.
“I improved mentally [this year]. In the middle of the summer I had a kind of click. I played bigger tournaments and I had big wins, so I got more confident.
“I started to believe I belong to this level. I think my game has just been in one piece all week.”
Bondar, a former Top 20 junior, extended her overall 2021 record to 57-26, including her maiden WTA quarter-final in Gdynia in July, as well as the ITF W80 title in Le Neubourg in September.
The Hungarian rose to a career high of World No 131 last month, and entered Buenos Aires as the World No.135.
Her title run began in emphatic fashion with a 6-0 6-0 whitewash of Spain’s Irene Burillo Escorihuela, and she only dropped one set over the course of the week, to top seed Mayar Sherif from Egypt in the semi-finals, which she won 4-6 6-3 6-3 in 2 hours and 29 minutes for her 4th Top 100 win of the year.
“That was a key moment for me,” said Bondar of the win over Sherif. “I was expecting a really tough match because I know how tough she is mentally and physically, and she loves clay.
“I had so many chances in the first set that I missed, so it was really tough to come back mentally – but I’m really happy that I pulled through it, and it gave me confidence.”
The 24-year-old also claimed wins over former junior World No 1s in Buenos Aires, edging past Andorran 16-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, 6-4 7-5, and in the final proved too solid for the 19-year-old Parry.
Bondar’s booming serve was the foundation of her success, winning 81% of the points behind her first delivery in the final, and saving all 4 break points that she faced, backed up by a powerful forehand and a sprinkling of judiciously-timed drop-shots, which caught Parry entirely off guard.
“It was a tough match, even though it was two sets,” said Bondar. “She was fighting really well, but I could dominate most of the time, and I could play my game, so it helped me to stay aggressive.”
The Frenchwoman has also been enjoying a career-best season, and arrived in Buenos Aires fresh off cracking the Top 200 for the first time in September, and winning her 3rd ITF W25 title of the year in Seville last month.
Parry hit another milestone in the quarter-finals this week when she scored her first Top 100 win over No 2 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil, 4-6 6-4 6-4, and, like Bondar, was contesting her maiden WTA 125 final.
Parry has a rare one-handed backhand, which she mixes with heavy topspin, knifing slice and flat drives on that wing with some style, while the World No 174’s forehand is her major weapon, although Bondar relentlessly worked on breaking down the backhand by targeting it on almost every big point.
No 5 seed Panna Udvardy, also a former Top 20 junior, is another young Hungarian enjoying success this week as she rises to a career high of World No 128 following her run to the semi-finals and extending her season record to 60-24.
Udvardy, who is 23 years old and has won 4 ITF W25 titles in 2021, came back from a set and 2-5 down against Laura Pigossi in the second round, saving 3 match points en route to a 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 victory over the Brazilian, which clocked in at 3 hours 18 minutes – the longest contest of the tournament.
The Hungarian backed that up with a seesaw 6-1 1-6 6-1 upset of No 4 seed Irina Bara from Romania in the quarter-finals.
In the doubles final, singles quarter-finalists Bara & Ekaterine Gorgodze from Georgia came from a set and 3-5 down to beat the unseeded pair of Argentine Maria Lourdes Carle & Despina Papamichail from Greece, 5-7 7-5 [10-4].
Carle & Papamichail served for the title and held 2 championship points at 5-4 in the second set, but were denied by the Romanian-Georgian duo.
Bara & Gorgodze have now competed in 3 tournaments together this year, and won them all.
They were the Karlsruhe 125 champions in September, and won their maiden WTA doubles titles at the Transylvania Open, Cluj-Napoca last week.
Their Buenos Aires run extended their winning streak as a pair to 11 matches.
Dow Tennis Classic
At the Down Tennis Classic in Midland, Michigan, top seed Madison Brengle triumphed over Robin Anderson, 6-2 6-4, in the all-American final to win her second WTA 125 title after an hour and 36 minutes.
Nevertheless, Anderson can console herself with victory in the USTA’s Australian Open Wild-card Challenge, which has earned her a Grand Slam main draw debut in Melbourne next year.
Brengle, 31, had previously also won the 2019 Newport Beach 125 title, defeating Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele in the final.
This win marks the second time she has become the champion in Midland, having lifted her first ITF W100 trophy here in 2018 with victory over Jamie Loeb in the final.
The former World No 35 has now won 2 of her last 3 tournaments, having also captured the ITF W80 title in Macon last month.
In the final, Brengle blended indefatigable defence with canny counter-punching to keep Anderson’s aggressive game at bay.
Time and again, Anderson, the World No 214, made her way to the net only for Brengle to pick her off with a precise pass.
In the second set, the 28-year-old played some of her best tennis to level the score after falling behind an early break, but could not quite reel Brengle in completely.
“I like playing indoor tennis,” said Brengle afterwards. “It’s how I grew up playing – and I like not getting the sun, that’s a big bonus for me.
“The key was trying to keep the ball deep and moving it around – that’s what I’ve done well this whole week, being consistent but aggressive.”
Brengle’s title run featured contrasting victories. In the first round, she needed to come from a set down to defeat Asia Muhammad 4-6 6-1 6-2; but then she dropped just two games in the next two rounds, beating Sachia Vickery 6-2 6-0 before white-washing No 7 seed Lizette Cabrera from Australia, 6-0 6-0, in the quarter-finals.
In the semifinals, she needed to save a match point in the second-set tiebreak before overcoming compatriot Danielle Lao, 6-7 7-6(8) 6-0 after 2 hours 48 minutes.
“I never feel like I’m out of it,” said Brengle. “Even though I was down match point, you just have to fight, first point to the last.
“Danielle was playing unbelievably well, so I knew I just had to keep plugging away. If I lost, I lost, but I was going to give myself the best opportunity.”
Reflecting on her season, Brengle pin-pointed Wimbledon as her favourite moment off-court.
“Even though it was a bubble, I had a lot of fun,” she said. “Arina Rodionova was there and she’s one of my best friends on tour.
“When we’re at tournaments together, regardless of whatever Covid stuff is going on, she makes it fun. What do we do together? We drink. We drink heavily.”
On court, though, little compares to the feeling of victory.
“I’ve won some tough matches – but in Macon and here, winning tournaments makes me happiest.”
In the doubles final on Saturday, Britain’s Harriet Dart & Asia Muhammad from the US both lost in the first round of the singles tournament, but joined forces for the first time to take the doubles title as the No 2 seeds, overcoming 3rd-seeded Peangtarn Plipuech and Aldila Sutjiadi, 6-3 2-6 [10-7], in the final.
While Muhammad already owns 6 WTA doubles titles, as well as one prior WTA 125 trophy at Indian Wells 2020 alongside Taylor Townsend, this marks Dart’s biggest title to date and first at WTA 125 level.
Dart & Muhammad ended Plipuech’s hot streak in American WTA 125 tournaments. The Thai player had already claimed the doubles titles in Concord (with Jessy Rompies) and Chicago (with Eri Hozumi) this year.