EASTBOURNE, England - Elena Vesnina and Jamie Hampton had both been playing some of the best tennis of their careers, but all that mattered on the day was who would handle the wind better - and it was Vesnina, who cruised to win her first Premier-level title at the Aegon International.
Vesnina and Hampton both battled past Top 10 opponents to get to the final - Vesnina took out Li Na, Hampton beat Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki. And things looked even as the two stayed on serve through 2-all - but Vesnina completely broke away from there, winning seven straight games as Hampton began breaking apart, and the Russian eventually cruised to victory, 62 61.
"It was really difficult to play today, honestly," Vesnina said. "At the beginning I was like, 'Oh my God, I just need to stay in the match, just try to play every single point. Don't think about wind and just fight.' It was not about the serve, it was not about good forehands or good backhands - it was about fighting spirit. If you're able to handle this, if you're able to play under the pressure with this wind, you'll do well.
"You always want to show the best tennis in the final, but it doesn't matter, a win is a win."
"She played the conditions much better than I did," Hampton said. "Honestly, I was surprised how she was even hitting the ball in the court, and on top of that she was playing some very good tennis.
"She was very deserving of the title today."
Vesnina came into 2013 with an 0-6 record in WTA finals, but she has won both of her finals this season, first at the International-level event in Hobart (the week before the Australian Open) and now at the Premier-level event in Eastbourne (on the eve of Wimbledon). She's 2-6 in WTA finals now.
"Maybe my time has come," Vesnina said. "Maybe I've changed a little bit as a player, as a person. I grew up. I started to be more mature. Maybe I know what to do in finals now, because before, even when I was losing those finals, I was playing against really good players, Top 10 players most of them.
"But I kept believing in myself. I knew I would win this title. I knew it was going to happen. It's not self-confidence - I knew if I kept working hard and believing in myself, it would come. And it did."
Vesnina will now shoot up from No.36 back to her career-high of No.22, which she set in 2009.
Hampton received some on-court coaching in the match - she was asked afterwards what her coach told her. "Play up the middle," Hampton recalled. "It was so windy that trying to do anything with the ball was tough. If I tried to keep it low, it would go wide. So he was telling me to play up the middle, try and put a little more pop on your ball up the middle and make her hit winners through the wind. But he also reminded me she's playing really well, so just try to stay in there, stay positive, use the out-wide serves, try to take her off the court, go to the open court and if that didn't work, go up the middle."
It was still a breakthrough week for Hampton - not only did she reach her first WTA final, she did it at a Premier-level event, and two weeks after breaking the Top 50, she will now rise up to No.25.
"Very encouraging," she said. "I'm very proud of myself for fighting through all the adversity, having to come through qualies and fighting through all the conditions all week. I'm disappointed that I lost today, obviously, and I would have loved to win the tournament, but on to the next tournament now.