FÈS, Morocco - A new queen was crowned at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem on Saturday, as young Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens beat Spain's Laura Pous-Tio to cap an absolute breakthrough week.
Before this week Bertens had only played one WTA main draw, at her home event in 's-Hertogenbosch last year - she lost first round. And she almost didn't make it into the main draw in Fès, surviving some close encounters in her last two qualifying matches - she was down 3-1 third set to Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino and 4-1 third set to Kristyna Pliskova - but she survived and qualified.
Then, one by one, she began picking up her first WTA main draw wins: Urszula Radwanska in the first round, Chanelle Scheepers second round, Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco in the quarterfinals and Simona Halep in the semis - Scheepers and Halep were seeded, Halep was a two-time returning finalist.
With two first-time finalists on the court - Pous-Tio had been to semifinals three times before but never further - there were some nerves, but after a slow 0-3 start Bertens settled in far better, winning nine games in a row from 5-all in the first set for a runaway 75 60 victory, lifting her very first WTA trophy.
"In the beginning I was very nervous and she started well, but after I won the first set all my nerves were gone," Bertens jubilated afterwards. "I love it here. I was here for one week because I played the qualies too, so I'm a little bit tired now, but I'm going to celebrate tonight and then go back home tomorrow.
"I'm excited. I'm going to play more tournaments now and try to win more."
Pous-Tio was playing her fourth tournament back after missing the entire Latin American swing with a left knee injury. "It has only been a few months since I've been back and only my second tournament on clay, so I'm still happy with the result," the 27-year-old Spaniard said. "In the final she started attacking more and everything started going faster - she played a very good match today.
"This is one of my favorite tournaments. It has been a long time I've been coming here and the people are always very, very kind and give you everything, and I like the courts and the club too, so everything is just perfect here in Fès.
"I'm sure I'll be back the next year, and the next one and the next one!"
The doubles went to Czech-Russian duo Petra Cetkovska and Alexandra Panova, who rallied from 63 53 down - and ended up fighting off five match points - to beat Irina-Camelia Begu and Alexandra Cadantu, 36 76(5) 119. Cetkovska and Panova actually missed six match points of their own, letting a 9-3 lead in the match tie-break become 9-all, but they closed it out.
Cetkovska won her second WTA doubles title, while Panova won her third.