PRAGUE, Czech Republic - No.2 seed Lucie Safarova threw down 14 aces to edge past No.4 seed Samantha Stosur, winning the battle of former French Open finalists, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, to capture the J&T Banka Prague Open title.
Heading into the International-level event in Prague, Safarova hadn't won a singles match all year. In fact, she hadn't even won a set until last week in Stuttgart, still struggling to find her form since returning from the bacterial infection that sidelined her at the end of 2015 and forced her to skip the Australian Open.
But last year's French Open finalist peaked just at the right time, powered by her adoring home crowd to recover from a one-set deficit for her first title of the year.
"I had quite a few tough matches here so I feel pretty tired," Safarova said after the match. "But my health is holding up which is the best news for me after such a long time of struggling.
"Each match here I was playing better and better, and by semis and finals I felt like my old self."
Safarova went down an early break in her first service game, Stosur threading a pinpoint accurate backhand down the line to bring up the first break chance of the match. The Australian's heavy shots were giving Safarova plenty of trouble throughout the opening set, going up a 4-1 lead. Despite pushing back during the later stages of the set, Safarova wasn't able to pressure the Stosur serve and find a chance to break back, dropping the first set.
The Czech mounted her comeback in the second set, aided by Stosur's service struggles: the Australian hit four double faults in the one game to hand Safarova the first break. She also unleashed her own powerful serves: 12 of the 14 aces struck by Safarova came in the final two sets. Despite hitting a rare double fault on set point - one of two the whole match - Safarova closed out the second set to level the score.
Safarova got the break in the seventh game of the final set, going up 4-3 as the tide - and the vocal crowd - turned firmly in her favor.
A pair of aces sealed the match and the Prague title, which is Safarova's seventh WTA title, and her first one on clay courts since Oeiras in 2005.
"I'm so happy because support during the week was amazing," Safarova said. "To finally get some wins under my belt feels great. And a seventh title? Wow!"
Prague is quickly becoming a stronghold for Czech players: they've now seen their second Czech champion in as many years, with Karolina Pliskova having won last year's inaugural staging.
For Stosur, who was also playing in her first final of the year in Prague, the experience brings nothing but positives.
"I'm really happy with the week that I've had," the Australian said. "I played some really good tennis and some hard fought matches, and it's really good for my tennis all around.
"Lucie was too good today - we've had some close matches and today was pretty similar to that. All credit to her and congratulations, she had the win today."
It will be a quick turnaround for both finalists going from Prague straight to Madrid: the Mutua Madrid Open starts today and both are slated to play their opening matches tomorrow.
"It's gonna be a late night tonight, and I know Lucie and I are on the same flight," Stosur said. "We'll both be in the same boat but that's the way it goes sometimes.
"It's not ideal preparation, but to be in a final - you'd take that any day."
? WTA (@WTA) April 30, 2016