LIMOGES, France -- No.5 seed Monica Niculescu of Romania claimed her first singles title of the year on Sunday, capturing the ENGIE Open de Limoges championship with a straight-set win over Germany's Antonia Lottner, 6-4, 6-2.
Niculescu raced to victory in just over an hour behind four breaks of serve, clinching the first WTA 125K championship of her career. The three-time WTA singles champion hoists her first trophy since winning the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open over Petra Kvitova one year ago.
In the semifinals, the 30-year-old Romanian had to fight back from a set down against No.3 seed Pauline Parmentier of France, but it was much smoother sailing against the 21-year-old German.
Lottner was contesting the biggest final of her young career after beating No.2 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the quarterfinals, before her heralded compatriot, 2013 Wimbledon singles runner-up Sabine Lisicki, had to retire against her in the semifinals.
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It was Niculescu's particularly stellar defense on the day which combined with her typically unconventional shotmaking to flummox the young German. Lottner, however, acquitted herself well by coming to the net often and proving to be an adept volleyer.
Nevertheless, the Romanian started strong, breaking Lottner in the first game of the match. Niculescu, however, could not hold that lead, misfiring her patented slice forehand into the net to let Lottner level the set at 3-3.
But, at 4-4, Niculescu reclaimed the range on her shots, and fired a wonderful backhand pass to set up double break point. Lottner's inexperience took over, hitting a backhand unforced error into the net to give Niculescu the decisive break of the set. In the next game, a strong serve on set point was returned long, and the Romanian won the opener.
Niculescu, a veteran of eight WTA singles finals and a ladies' doubles runner-up at Wimbledon this year with Chan Hao-ching, used her guile and wits to race to a 4-0, double-break lead in the second set. Lottner did not succumb easily, recovering and hitting some wonderful winners off the forehand to push the set to 5-2.
But in the next game, Niculescu demonstrated the grit which propelled her to the WTA Top 30 in 2012, and quickly jumped to triple match point after an exceptional slice backhand drop shot winner.
Another Lottner winner off the forehand only prolonged the inevitable, and Niculescu sealed victory on her second chance when her slice forehand forced an error into the net from the German.