MEMPHIS, TN, USA - It may not have been the fairytale ending on the court, but it certainly was a fairytale ending at the trophy ceremony - Marina Erakovic won her first WTA title at the US National Indoor Tennis Championships on Saturday, and the trophy couldn't have been more appropriate.
Having lost in her two previous WTA finals, Erakovic was hoping for third time lucky this time as she faced Sabine Lisicki - but the final would have an abbreviated ending, as after Erakovic raced through the opening set, 6-1, the No.3-seeded Lisicki had to retire due to gastrointestinal illness.
"It's very unfortunate I wasn't able to finish the match," Lisicki commented. "I put all the energy I had left in my body into the match, but I just couldn't keep going. I had been sick the last three days already. But Marina had a great tournament and I want to congratulate her for her first WTA title."
For Erakovic, it wasn't just her first WTA title - it was coming full circle. "If paying your dues is putting all the hours in on the tennis court, getting injured and going back at it again, then I've definitely paid my dues," she said. "I just like playing tennis. It's not always fun and it's not always great, and it doesn't always work out the way you want it to, but when you win tight matches or win titles, it's all worthwhile."
Erakovic is the first New Zealander to win a WTA title since Belinda Cordwell at Kallang in 1989.
"I think it means quite a bit for New Zealand," she said. "We're a small place, we've got about four million people, and tennis isn't the most popular sport - but whenever I'm somewhere else in the world and someone asks me where I'm from, and I say New Zealand, they always say they love New Zealand. And there are always a lot of Kiwis supporting me around the world. So this is great.
"I've just talked to home - everyone's super excited. My dad was watching online - I had to tell him congratulations too, because he did so much when I was a kid. This really was teamwork."
And the guitar trophy couldn't have been a better match for Erakovic, who plays guitar and travels with one. "I really couldn't have thought of a better moment in time than that," she commented.
The doubles title went to No.2 seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Galina Voskoboeva, who beat Swedish duo Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson in the final, 76(5) 63. It was the French-Kazakh duo's first WTA title together - Mladenovic now has three WTA doubles to her name, Voskoboeva four.