BOGOTA, Colombia - No.5 seed Irina Falconi captured her first WTA title in historic fashion, becoming the first American woman to win the Claro Open Colsanitas as she recovered from a break down in the final set to defeat Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
"I'm so happy, and I even started to cry a little bit," Falconi told press after the match. "I was very overwhelmed with emotions. Just trying to take in every moment and enjoy it."
Playing in her first career WTA final, Falconi had already earned the biggest win over the week when she took out No.4 seed Lara Arruabarrena in the semifinals, and looked on course for a seamless victory when she took the first set. But Soler-Espinosa, who had only won one WTA main draw match before Bogota, wouldn't go down without a fight, leveling the match with a 6-2 set of her own and engineering an early break in the decider.
"Sílvia is an incredible competitor, so I knew it'd be a great battle. I knew that even though I was able to win the first set quite comfortably, it wouldn't stay that way for the whole match. In the second set she started to play a lot better. I think maybe I just didn't hit the ball as hard, and that gave her more confidence."
Six points from defeat down 3-4, 0-30, Falconi earned the break back and broke serve to win the title on her third championship point.
"This morning I felt nervous, but nerves are always nerves. I was talking to my boyfriend about it and what we kept saying was, 'It's just another match. Doesn't matter if it's a final, doesn't matter if it's a Grand Slam, it's just another match.'
"That's how I lived it, and that mentality helped me a lot."
Starting the week at No.92, Falconi is tentatively set to return to the Top 70, close to her career-high ranking of No.64. The Ecuadorian-American also dedicated her win to her birthplace, which had just suffered an earthquake on Sunday.
"My father is there right now, actually. He wanted to come here and watch me play, but obviously with the earthquake travel became complicated. First of all, thank god all my family is fine. But I know it's a very difficult situation for so many people over there.
"The last 24 hours we've just been praying constantly for all the families and the children - I knew there's a lot of people who've been killed already. We're sending over a lot of prayers."