Switzerland returned to the WTA schedule for the first time in nearly a decade in 2016, and as the event transitioned from Gstaad during 2016 through 2018 to the Ladies Open Lausanne last year, the last four seasons have created many memories for WTA stars, from victorious veterans to nascent newcomers.
The tournament had been hosted by numerous cities in the country during its lengthy tenure in the Open Era, including Geneva, Lugano, and Lucerne. Luminaries such as Chris Evert, Lindsay Davenport, and Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere each won the event multiple times before its 20-year hiatus started after the 1994 edition.
With its return to the tour four years ago, the event has become a mainstay of the mid-summer swing on the WTA, building a new legacy of clay-court classics in the scenic southwestern part of the country.
Kiki Delivers: These days, Kiki Bertens is a threat to win any tournament she enters -- but her rise into the elite of women’s tennis did not occur overnight.
Prior to 2016, the Dutchwoman had been a dangerous player, particularly on clay, but she had yet to post consistent enough results to put her inside the Top 40 of the WTA singles rankings.
In 2016 and 2017, though, Bertens made her move up the rankings, and a nearly perfect record at Gstaad in those two seasons helped to bolster her rise.
Bertens came into the 2016 edition ranked just outside the Top 25 for the first time in her career, following a stellar clay-court season: after claiming her second WTA singles title in Nurnberg, Bertens made a surprising run to the Roland Garros semifinals as an unseeded player.
Armed with her powerful serve and ferocious forehand, Bertens charged into the Gstaad semifinals, where she was the only non-Swiss player in the final four. In that round, Bertens overcame top seed Timea Bacsinszky in two tight sets.
Seeded third, Bertens’s excellent run ended with a loss in the final to unseeded Viktorija Golubic. But that would be the Dutch player’s only singles loss at the event in a two-year span, as it all came together for her the following season.
In 2017, No.2-seeded Bertens powered her way back into the final without the loss of a set. Aiming for the title she had come so close to capturing the year prior, Bertens faced fellow power hitter Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, the No.3 seed, in the championship match.
After splitting the first two sets, Bertens raced through the decider, collecting the last four games of the match to triumph 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, and hoist the trophy after just under two hours of play.
Bertens won nine out of her ten singles matches at the tournament between 2016 and 2017, and she also won the doubles title in 2017 alongside Johanna Larsson to boot.
Her solid success rate in Gstaad eventually translated to the tour as a whole. By the end of 2018, Bertens had cracked the Top 10, where she has remained to the present day.
Golubic's Goal: Viktorija Golubic’s outstanding Gstaad run in 2016 was a career-best highlight in her breakthrough season on the WTA.
The Swiss player started the year at a career-high ranking of World No.156, but she would improve that statistic by 100 spots after a superb season, which was enhanced by a revolutionary run on home soil.
After playing her first Grand Slam main draws in Melbourne and Paris at the start of 2016, Golubic came to Gstaad a whisker away from her Top 100 debut. The 23-year-old nearly fell at the first hurdle, but outlasted No.7 seed Mona Barthel, 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.
That close call in the first round empowered Golubic, who won her next three matches in straight sets, including a semifinal victory over teenage compatriot Rebeka Masarova, the reigning French Open junior champion.
Now in her maiden WTA singles final, Golubic faced a stern test against No.3 seed Kiki Bertens, who, as noted above, was having a breakthrough season of her own. Additionally, Bertens had already beaten Golubic twice earlier that season, in the qualifying rounds at Mexican hardcourt events.
Golubic, though, rallied from a set down in the championship match, tying up the tilt after a combined six breaks of serve in the second set. Leading 5-4 in the decider, Golubic broke the fearsome serve of Bertens in the final game of the clash to earn the 4–6, 6–3, 6–4 upset and her first WTA singles title.
With the win, Golubic shot from World No.105 to World No.72 in the WTA singles rankings, and, after another singles final in Linz in October, she finished out the year in the Top 60. After a ranking dip in 2017, Golubic has rebounded to maintain her year-ending Top 100 spot over the last two seasons.
Swiss Miss: The return of the event in 2016 was certainly boosted by the sublime performances by the Swiss women that week, where Golubic, Timea Bacsinszky, and wildcard Rebeka Masarova comprised three-quarters of the semifinal lineup.
Masarova, just 16 years old at the time, was making her WTA singles debut that week. She was just two months removed from winning the junior girls’ singles title at Roland Garros, where she defeated Amanda Anisimova in the final.
Her first performance on the main tour was a stunner, as she recovered from a first-set blowout to shock No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the opening round, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
"I resolved not to make too many mistakes, and was focused on what I had to do,” the teenager stated, after her surprising upset of the former World No.1. “I realized what she was doing to me; she was playing a lot to my backhand, and I had to play to her forehand."
Masarova would grind past the following year’s runner-up Anett Kontaveit and No.5 seed Annika Beck before falling in the semifinals to her countrywoman Golubic, but her breakout showing contributed to the superlative showing by the Swiss squad.
Tricolour Triumphs: It has been the French, though, who have taken control of the last two editions of the tournament.
In 2018, Alizé Cornet romped to her sixth career title by hoisting the Gstaad trophy after a 6–4, 7–6(6) victory over first-time WTA singles finalist Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.
Top-seeded Cornet did not drop a set during her cruise to the crown that week, which ended a lengthy titleless streak for the Frenchwoman. Her most recent prior title had come in Hobart, Australia, in January of 2016.
“Two and a half years without a title," said Cornet, after her victory ceremony. "I’ve been through tough moments in these last two-and-a-half years, especially this last season was tough on me, so it means the world to me to have this title, to win here in Gstaad."
This one is a special one....🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆😚 Title n°6 😍😇🤩 Hard work always pays off 💪— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) July 22, 2018
Celui là a quelque chose de spécial.... 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆😚 #6èmetitre #letravailpayetoujours #mercimateam @WTA_Gstaad pic.twitter.com/xya5OUdOV9
In 2019, the event was staged in Lausanne, but the move did not hinder Cornet, as she was on a mission to defend her title.
A three-set tussle against Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the quarterfinals was the only spot of trouble Cornet faced in the early rounds, as she returned to the final on a nine-match winning streak at the event. Cornet, though, would now face a compatriot who was having the best week of her career.
Fiona Ferro was nearly eliminated from the event in the second round, where she was down 6-1, 5-2 to No.4 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu. But, without facing a match point, Ferro pulled herself back from the brink, dominating a second-set tiebreak and squeaking out a close final set to complete the stunning turnaround.
Confident after that victory, Ferro won her next two matches in straight sets to reach her first-ever WTA singles final. There, facing defending champion Cornet, Ferro raced through the first set before Cornet struck back in the second to level the first all-French WTA singles final in 10 years.
In the end, Ferro’s accurate groundstrokes helped her seal her first WTA singles title, breaking Cornet's Swiss winning streak as she eased through the final set to notch a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win over her friend and countrywoman.
"It was a very tough match against a fellow French player and a friend,” Ferro said, after the final. “It was very difficult to stay calm and to stay in the moment. When you play a friend the emotions always take over."