HOUSTON, TX, USA -- No.3 seed Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium claimed a tight 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over fellow former Top 15 player CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States to claim the title at the Oracle Challenger Series event in Houston on Sunday.
In the second edition of the WTA 125K Series event, former World No.13 Flipkens, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2013, emerged victorious over the American wildcard after one hour and forty minutes of closely contested play to pick up her biggest career title since she won her lone WTA singles title at Quebec City in 2012.
Flipkens proved to be more effective when holding break points during the clash, as the Belgian converted four of her five chances, while Vandeweghe earned 11 break points but could only win three of those. Vandeweghe was also undone by seven double faults in the match, as Flipkens moved to her second straight victory over the American, leveling their head-to-head record at 2-2.
Nevertheless, former World No.9 Vandeweghe posted her best result of the year at Houston, in only her eighth event of 2019. The two-time Grand Slam semifinalist missed the first seven months of the season after ankle surgery, and saw her ranking dip outside the Top 600 due to the absence, but is projected to claw back into the Top 250 on Monday.
Vandeweghe took the upper hand early in the first set, as an error-prone Flipkens handed over a break to the American in the opening game. Flipkens nearly went down a double-break, but staved off three break points to hold for 2-1. The Belgian rebounded after that close call, and fired a forehand down the line for a winner on break point to pull back on serve at 2-2.
The duo exchanged breaks once more en route to 3-3, then polished off two close holds at the tail end of the opening frame to move into the tiebreak. A costly double fault by Vandeweghe gave Flipkens the early 2-0 advantage, but a strong return by the American helped her reclaim the mini-break and pull to 3-2.
Flipkens, though, would use her vaunted variety to persevere in the breaker, creating a deft lob winner to open up a commanding 5-2 lead. A long service return by Vandeweghe gave Flipkens triple set point at 6-3, and although one was saved with another solid serve, the American ceded the opening set with a netted volley on the Belgian’s second opportunity.
Having eked out an imposing one-set lead, Flipkens began to roll, earning triple break point at 1-1 with a stirring backhand passing winner down the line, then claiming the love break after another netted miscue by Vandeweghe. Still, the American fought to stay in the tilt, and grinded back on serve at 2-2 on her fifth break point of that protracted game.
Flipkens would not be denied on the day, and promptly used a backhand crosscourt winner to queue up a break point in the very next game, which she converted with another nifty lob to force an error. Back up a break again, the Belgian would make no mistake in the subsequent game, holding with ease to put herself within two games of victory.
At 5-3, Vandeweghe survived a 0-30 deficit to hold on with back-to-back forehand winners, and force Flipkens to serve out the match. Flipkens took on the task with aplomb, holding at love with a forehand winner and finishing the week as the singles champion.
More to follow...