Welcome back to Clay Chronicles, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable matches from the clay seasons of recent history. In this installment, we revisit classic clashes from the past five years of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, a staple in the tour calendar since 1987.
Madison Keys def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (2015 second round, 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(0))
In a clash between 2015 Australian Open semifinalists, top seed Madison Keys pulled off an incredible escape to beat the in-form Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round.
Bidding for her first win in four career meetings against Keys, Lucic-Baroni built a 6-4, 5-0 lead, winning her first-ever set against the American in the process.
From a 3-1 deficit in the opening set, the big-hitting Croatian, a finalist in Strasbourg at age 15 in 1997, rallied for 10 of the next 11 games, and was two points away from sealing a second-set bagel.
Serving for the match twice in the second set, and once more in the third, the Croatian veteran was never able to even reach match point, and Keys captured a thrilling victory in just over two-and-a-half hours.
''For sure, my mental toughness was important," Keys said at the time. ''Even at 5-0 I was trying hard and putting in all of my effort. My game was there, it was just a couple of points here or there that hadn't been going my way. It was a battle to the very, very end, and I'm very relieved with this victory.''
Lucic-Baroni, who reached the 1997 in what was her second-ever WTA event, returned again to finish as runner-up in 2016.
Caroline Garcia def. Virginie Razzano (2016 semifinals, 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-5)
Two French favorites put on a show for the home fans in the semifinals of the 2016 tournament, which saw No.10 seed Caroline Garcia take on lucky loser Virginie Razzano.
En route to her second career WTA singles title, and first in over two years, Garcia battled from a set and a break down, and 5-3 down in the final set, to beat her elder compatriot in the final four.
Razzano, who needed three sets to win her second and third round matches against Monica Puig (via retirement) and Elena Vesnina, respectively, sprinted out of the gates to lead 3-0 in the early going.
Despite losing four straight games, and failing to serve out the set at 6-5, the veteran Frenchwoman won the first three points of the ensuing tiebreak and never looked back from there. Her momentum continued into the second set, as she captured the first three games once more, before Garcia found her footing and captured six of the next seven to send the match to a final set.
As the match entered its third hour, the lucky loser was the first to break, and built a 5-3 lead after saving five break points against her earlier in the set. However, Garcia pushed into another gear, and ultimately, the eventual champion won four straight games, and surrendered just three points in doing so, to win the match.
Daria Gavrilova def. Ashleigh Barty (2017 quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(5))
Two years before she hoisted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2019, Ashleigh Barty was in the midst of a comeback season. After an 18-month hiatus, the Aussie announced in February of 2016 that she was coming back to tennis, and returned to singles play in May of that year.
Twelve months later, Barty was on the upswing after reaching the third round of the Australian Open as a wildcard, and winning her first WTA title in Kuala Lumpur as a qualifier.
Playing in just her second event on clay since 2014, the future World No.1 gave eventual finalist and compatriot Daria Gavrilova all she could handle in a thrilling quarterfinal match that lasted over two-and-a-half hours.
Gavrilova, ranked World No.25 at the time, rallied from a 3-0 deficit to capture the opening set, and was twice a break up in the second set before her younger compatriot rallied to force a final set.
The No.7 seed again led by a break on three separate occasions in the final set, but needed to battle back as Barty served for the match at 5-4. Never allowing Barty to reach match point, Gavrilova got the decider back on serve in short order, and never trailed in the concluding tiebreak as the match reached a fitting conclusion.
Though she'd finish runner-up to a third Aussie, Samantha Stosur in the 2017 singles championship, Gavrilova and compatriot Ellen Perez went on to win the doubles title last year.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Dominika Cibulkova (2018 final, 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 7-6(6))
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Dominika Cibulkova often brought the fireworks when they faced off, and the 2018 final in Strasbourg proved no exception.
The last of their 11 career matches, and the sixth which went three sets, saw the Russian rally for an incredible victory for her 12th career title. Despite coming into the match having lost against Cibulkova on seven prior occasions, the Russian racked up over 70 winners and 13 aces to claim glory.
Read the match report: Pavlyuchenkova claims Strasbourg title over Cibulkova in marathon final
With each set lasting over an hour, the two players were evenly matched throughout, and ultimately, Pavlyuchenkova saved a pair of match points on serve in the 10th game of the decider, with each playing having held a break lead in the final set by that point.
In what ended up as the third-longest tour-level match of the 2018 season at a staggering three hours and 35 minutes, Pavlyuchenkova also captured her third WTA title on clay.
The match was also notable as it marked Cibulkova's last appearance in a final before she retired from tennis in 2019.
Dayana Yastremska def. Caroline Garcia (2019 final, 6–4, 5–7, 7–6(3))
For the second year running, the eventual champion was one point away from defeat before rallying to take home the trophy.
Already a winner of two WTA titles as a teenager, Dayana Yastremska captured her second title of 2019 by beating former champion and home favorite Garcia in a thrilling final 12 months ago, in which she saved a match point in the third set.
Battling back from a break down in the opening set, Yastremska first held two match points of her own with a 6-4, 5-3 lead, only to see the French No.4 seed capture four straight games to force a decider.
The then-19-year-old, who celebrated her birthday shortly before the tournament began last year, was the first to break serve in a titanic third game in which she converted her seventh break point, but immediately surrendered her own serve for 2-2.
The two players traded holds from there, with the teenager showing nerves of steel as she continued to pull level from behind, never more so than when she saved a match point en route to holding for 5-5.
Ultimately, Yastremska wrestled control of the decisive tiebreak when it was finely poised at 2-2, winning four straight points and capturing the nearly three-hour victory on her second match point.