The Bucharest Open has been the flagship tournament in Romanian tennis since its foundation in 2014.
The event offers players uncomfortable on the grass to get back to a more familiar surface and has an impressive role of winners over the course of its short history.
Fittingly, Simona Halep appears twice on the champions board, having claimed the inaugural title six years ago with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Roberta Vinci.
Halep was already well on her way to becoming one of the game’s truly elite players when she arrived to play her home event, having climbed to WTA World No.3 and having earned seven Tour titles.
Furthermore, she was coming off the back of a successful run at Wimbledon, where she had fallen at the semifinal stage to Eugenie Bouchard.
Energized rather than fatigued by her exploits at the third major of the year, she tore through the field until the semifinal stage, where she erred ever so slightly as she dropped a set in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win over Monica Niculescu – the only match in which she lost more than six games.
Vinci, meanwhile, had enjoyed a similarly convincing passage through to the showpiece but found Halep, who had won their two previous meetings convincingly, much too hot to handle as the home player delighted the crowd in a 6-1, 6-3 win.
Two years later, Halep was back on top of the winner’s podium after crushing Anastasija Sevastova 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
If her performance in the showpiece was flawless, there were certainly some scares along the way. Barbora Krejcikova threatened to end her tournament at the first hurdle before the top seed powered to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 success, while Vania King also pinched the opening set against her before succumbing to a 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3 reverse.
Sandwiched between these events, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova was the 2015 champion, benefitting from Halep’s absence.
It proved a week to remember for the Slovak, who was enjoying a breakout season. She had already reached the finals in Rio and Katowice, winning her first Tour title in the latter, before impressing throughout the tournament in Bucharest.
As No.7 seed, she lost an aggregate of only 10 games in her first three matches before easing past Polona Hercog in the semis to set up a final against Sara Errani. The Italian had been the victor in Rio, when Schmiedlova made her debut in a Tour final, but bolstered by a strong run of results she turned the tables to win 7-6(3), 6-3.
In 2017, the title remained in Romanian hands as Irina-Camelia Begu took the honors, making up for the absence of Halep and the late withdrawal of No.4 seed Monica Niculescu.
Three largely uneventful encounters against unseeded opponents preceded a titanic 7-5, 7-5 victory over Carla Suárez Navarro, the No.2 seed, while the following day No.3 seed Julia Goerges, who had been taken the distance by Ana Bogdan in the semis, was dispatched, 6-3, 7-5 in the final.
It remains Begu’s only clay title on the WTA Tour, with the week made all the more special with success in the doubles alongside Raluca Olaru, making her the only player to win both disciplines.
Sevastova returned in 2018 to win the title. It was one of the rare editions that there was widespread Romanian disappointment in a tournament in which the home players have thrived. Four of the top six seed represented the hosts by Bogdan and defending champion Begu both fell in the first round while Sorana Cirstea was accounted for by Sevastova in the quarters, though only after winning the first set.
Meanwhile, Mihaela Buzarnescu made it all the way to the semis to be dispatched by Petra Martic, who set up a showdown with the Latvian, who had seen Hercog retire after a set of their encounter.
Sevastova claimed a tight tiebreak in the opening set and dominated the second to seal a 7-6(4), 6-2 win.
The story of the 2019 tournament was Patricia Maria Tig. Returning to the Tour after an absence of close to two years – her previous match had been in September 2018 – the home player successfully negotiated qualifying having been given a wildcard and the first round to set up a clash against Sevastova in which she dispatched the defending champion in straight sets.
Wins over seeded players Kristyna Pliskova and Laura Siegemund followed, with Elena Rybakina waiting in the final.
The Kazak player, who was also unseeded, had made steadier but less spectacular progress during the week, despite a victory over No.2 seed Viktoria Kuzmova. Rybakina was only playing her seventh tournament and made her first title, and on this occasion it was youth that triumphed over experience, 6-2, 6-0.