BUDAPEST, Hungary - Timea Babos won her second WTA title in style, taking out former World No.5 Lucie Safarova, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 to win the inaugural Hungarian Ladies Open championship in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
"I'm really, really happy," she said after the match. "It's an unbelievable feeling and an incredible moment for my career that I could play against Lucie. She's an amazing player and it was a big fight and it's unbelievable that I could come out with a win in front of my home crowd."
Both women were playing their first finals of the season - Babos came into the tournament without winning a WTA main draw match - and it was Safarova, a French Open finalist in 2015, who overcame a slow start and an early break to eventually race out to a 5-1 lead in the first set tie-break, dropping just three points behind an entertaining opener.
"It was very tiring. I had to move a lot, but still be aggressive. She's a tough player - one of the best - so it was difficult, especially after losing the first set after leading. I tried to stay calm and maintain my tactics; it was working really well, and the at 2-2 in the third, I felt like something changed. From that moment, I was flying on the court, being really aggressive. I'm especially happy with how I played in the third."
Babos was a regular competitor at Budapest's last WTA event - a clay court tournament last held in 2013 - and played up to her billing throughout the week, dropping just one set en route to the final.
"I was starting to not feel like myself on court anymore. This week, I found myself and my game. Each match, I started to play better, get in more rhythm and have a better attitude.
"I hope I'll ride this wave into Indian Wells, but for now, it's time to enjoy this win before I keep going."
She converted the only break point of the second set and never looked back, leveling the match behind four aces.
"She got an early break right away in the second set," Safarova noted after the match. "That pumped her up, but it was just about a few points the whole time. It was a very close match.
"She was playing aggressively today, and defending really well. She put a lot of balls back."
The final set began like the last, opening with a Babos service break but fans were treated to a tense ending as Safarova put on one last comeback, breaking the top seed as she served for the match. Undaunted, Babos broke back in kind to clinch her first title since 2012 in Monterrey.
"It's not easy being the No.1 seed in your home country without winning a match this year; this is its own kind of pressure," Babos admitted, "but I just tried to stay focused and calm to do my best and give everything I had. Match by match, I started to play better, but it's still incredible what happened.
"After match point, I immediately started to cry becuase I know how hard it was the last couple months. My coach and I looked at each other feeling relieved that we were still on the right track despite some tough moments. I'm happy that everything turned around at home.
"The organization was amazing; it was great for the crowd to have a Hungarian each day to support. Yesterday we had a full house, almost as if it were a National Tennis Day. It was full again today, and they helped me a lot. It's good for Hungarian tennis and it's good for tennis in general to have new, good tournaments. I hope we'll have this event here for a long time."
Former World No.1 and ethnic Hungarian Monica Seles presented the trophy after arriving at the start of the weekend to take in the semifinals; Babos in turn presented the First Year Anniversary gift to tournament organizers, welcoming the event into the WTA family fold.
"That's another honor and incredible to hear that. It was the first time I got to talk to her and hear her speaking Hungarian. That was amazing, and all these combinations happened today."
In the doubles final, former World No.1 Hsieh Su-Wei paired Oksana Kalashnikova to outlast comeback kid Galina Voskoboeva - who was playing her first WTA final since sitting out two seasons due to foot injuries - and Arina Rodionova, 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.
All photos courtesy of Peter Zandor.