Zahlavova Strycova Claims First WTA Title

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova just kept getting better and better in the final of the Bell Challenge.

Published September 18, 2011 12:00

Zahlavova Strycova Claims First WTA Title
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

QUÉBEC CITY, Canada - After losing a draining first set, it can be tough for players to keep fighting their hardest, mentally and physically - not the case for Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. The 25-year-old embodied every aspect of the comeback in the final of the Bell Challenge on Sunday, not just hanging in there but only getting better and better. In the end, she had her first WTA title.

Zahlavova Strycova came to Québec not expecting a lot, even admitting she thought she would win one or two rounds and leave happy. But the No.6-seeded Czech won four matches to reach the final, losing just one set along the way, to Mirjana Lucic in the second round (closing that one out, 26 61 63).

Her opponent in the final was Marina Erakovic, who had pulled off a number of surprises along the way. The New Zealander beat No.7 seed Irina Falconi, No.1 seed Daniela Hantuchova and No.3 seed Tamira Paszek en route to her first WTA final, and in the early goings looked headed for her first title.

Using her powerful forehands to hit through the tenacious Zahlavova Strycova, Erakovic toughed out a 6-4 first set in 53 minutes, and at 1-1 in the second set threatened to break as she won the first two points on Zahlavova Strycova's serve; but the match turned on a dime from there as Zahlavova Strycova reeled off five games in a row to take the second set and extending the streak to 11 games in a row to win the third at love, completing a runaway 46 61 60 victory.

"After the first set I changed my strategy. I could see she was very tired after the first set so I started putting more balls in the court and making her run," Zahlavova Strycova said. "In the first set she was playing very good, but I could see she started to make more mistakes. It felt like she was breaking down.

"Once it got to the third set I was just in the zone. It felt like everything I hit was going in. I saw the ball so big. I just knew I was going to win the match."

"I was going after the ball more than I normally would because she makes the court a lot smaller," Erakovic said. "She played clever, though. She was getting lots of balls back, coming into the net, just playing clever. She played very well."

With Zahlavova Strycova and Erakovic having never won a WTA title previously, a first-time winner was guaranteed - and the triumphant one was elated with the result. "I can't believe it's happening," Zahlavova Strycova said. "This week was just like a fairytale. I was very tired coming here. I played so many tournaments in the summer and didn't play well, so this just gives me so much confidence.

"And of course I'm coming back next year. I have to defend my title!"

Erakovic still felt proud of her week. "This final does hurt. It's disappointing. But after a couple of days I'll be fine and will look back and see the positives. I had a lot of good wins this week and am playing some good tennis. There's lots of improvement to make, and if I keep working hard there will be a lot more finals."

The doubles title went to No.1 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, who beat Jamie Hampton and Anna Tatishvili, 61 36 106. It was Kops-Jones and Spears' second WTA title together, having won Estoril two years ago; Kops-Jones now has four WTA doubles titles to her name, Spears six.

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