In our Mid-Summer Swings, wtatennis.com takes you back to some of the best narratives, significant milestones and signposts for the future around the world during the post-Wimbledon section of the season. This week, we rewind to Anastasija Sevastova's home country heroics in Jurmala, Olga Danilovic's triumph as a lucky loser at the Moscow River Cup, superb title defenses in Budapest, notes from Knokke-Heist, and Caroline Wozniacki's wondrous Istanbul work.
Sicilian sagas: From Pierce to Pennetta, the best of Palermo
Austrian aces: Scenic sights and special moments
Swiss scenes: Home heroes and French success in Gstaad and Lausanne
Bucharest brilliance: Looking back on champions in Romania
Starring in Scandinavia: From first titles to super sweeps
Tales from Sopot, Portoroz, Baku, Florianopolis and Nanchang
Moscow: Just Around the Riverbend -- In 2018, Russia was home to a mid-summer clay-court event, as the inaugural Moscow River Cup was contested. A clutch of top players descended upon the nation’s capital, but when the dust settled, two teenagers had carved unique paths to what would turn out to be an epic final.
17-year-old wildcard Anastasia Potapova grinded her way into her first WTA singles final that week, though the home favorite had already made her mark on the tennis scene by winning the Wimbledon junior girls’ singles title two years prior.
Potapova fought back from a set down in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches, as her dogged persistence paid dividends on the Moscow clay en route to the championship match.
However, Potapova’s struggles in the latter stages of the event were outdone by her final opponent. Fellow 17-year-old Olga Danilovic also made her way into the last match of the week, but the surging Serbian had needed a bit of fortune to even be in the main draw.
Danilovic had fallen in the final round of qualifying to Paula Badosa, but received a lucky loser spot not long before she and her mother had planned to board their flight back to Belgrade.
“We were in Red Square, just walking around, and my coach called me and he said, ‘Okay, you have to come back, you’re playing tomorrow,’” Danilovic recalled in a post-event interview. “And I’m like, ‘No, I lost. You were there.’ And he said, ‘No no, you got in, you’re playing tomorrow.’ I’m like, ‘No way!’ We came back very fast to the hotel, to prepare for my match."
Super happy with my performance here in 🇷🇺! Thank you for all kind messages and support! Moscow u have my heart! Hvala svima na divnim porukama i podrsci! 😊❤️ pic.twitter.com/7qjGOTpgvU— Danilovic Olga (@danilovic_olga) July 29, 2018
Danilovic made the most of her opportunity, winning her first three matches in straight sets, including a quarterfinal victory over No.1 seed Julia Goerges. A lengthy semifinal win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich propelled Danilovic into her maiden WTA singles final.
It was the first WTA final between two players under 18 since 2005, and Potapova came into it with a hearty advantage -- the Russian had beaten Danilovic all five times they had played in the juniors (which, naturally, had been relatively recent encounters).
However, Danilovic fired 47 winners in the final to squeak out a grueling 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-4 win in two-and-half hours, completing her journey from a loss in the qualifying rounds to tournament champion, one of the rarest feats in tennis.
"After I lost the qualies, I was disappointed, but I lost to a good girl, so I was just thinking, ‘Okay, next tournament, maybe it’s going to be mine,’” Danilovic said, after the Moscow River Cup final. “But when I got that chance, I really took it. I really felt like, ‘Okay, this is a chance, I got in, I should take this chance.’ And I took it, and I’m so proud of that."
Jurmala: Letts Get Loud -- Latvia is the most recent addition to the mid-summer swing on the WTA, as Jurmala played host to the inaugural edition of the Baltic Open last season.
Boasting two elite contenders, the nation was clamoring for a homeland heroine to take the first-ever Baltic Open crown. After 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko lost in the first round, it was up to No.1 seed Anastasija Sevastova to shoulder the pressure.
“Every match I had a responsibility, every match here was like a final," Sevastova said, at the end of the week. "I already knew how it would be. It was hard to play, of course.”
For example, the World No.11 was forced to survive a second-round scare against Dalila Jakupovic, eventually taking the final three games of a closely-contested three-set tilt. After that, though, Sevastova had smoother sailing into the final, winning her quarterfinal and semifinal clashes in straight sets.
The last hurdle was much more complicated, though, as Sevastova faced a surging Katarzyna Kawa in the championship match. Polish qualifier Kawa had cruised through her last three matches without even coming close to losing a set, as she queued up an appearance in her first-ever WTA singles final.
It looked like Kawa’s dream run was about to have the best possible ending, as she played pristine tennis to go up a set and a break at 6-3, 2-0.
Sevastova pulled back on serve in the second set, but she was still a game away from defeat when serving at 6-3, 5-4 for Kawa. From there, though, the crafty play of Sevastova kicked into high gear, as she reeled off five straight games to eke out the second set and go up a break in the decider.
Kawa made one final stand to pull back on serve in the third set, but a critical service break at 2-2 went the way of Sevastova, and the top seed held her nerve to thrill the partisan crowds, winning 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes. It was Sevastova's fourth career WTA singles title, and she was proud to pick one up on the clay in her homeland.
"I showed character at this tournament,” Sevastova said, after hoisting the trophy in front of her Latvian fans. “It was difficult, so it was two times more pleasant to win."
Istanbul: Rising Russians, Great Dane -- Istanbul's placement in the mid-summer swing, from 2009 to 2010 and 2014 to 2015, was the site of some memorable moments on the hardcourts of Turkey.
Up-and-coming Russians reaped rewards in the bustling metropolis in 2009 and 2010. Vera Dushevina broke through in 2009, winning her first WTA singles title in Istanbul.
2002 Wimbledon junior girls’ singles champion Dushevina had lost her first three WTA singles finals, but the fourth time was the charm in Turkey, as she swept to the crown without the loss of a set.
The next year, another former junior star from Russia started to build her own WTA singles title account with help from a trophy-winning run in Istanbul. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won that title, which was her second WTA singles title of that season and of her career.
Pavluychuenkova, who had won three Grand Slam junior singles titles on hardcourt (twice at the Australian Open and once at the US Open) needed to get through three-set barnburners over Jarmila Gajdosova in the semifinals and Elena Vesnina in the final before she could enter the winner’s circle that week.
After three years of hosting the year-ending WTA Finals between 2011 and 2013, the Istanbul summer hardcourt event returned in 2014, where former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki was the top seed after receiving a wildcard.
However, Wozniacki -- who played the WTA Finals in Istanbul in 2011 -- was nearly knocked out of the event more early than she would have surely preferred.
The Dane had to fight back from a set down to quell dangerous Italian Karin Knapp in the second round. Things were just as tough in the quarterfinals, where she was pushed to three sets by a player ranked outside of the Top 70 -- this being future World No.1 Karolina Pliskova.
But after those tests, Wozniacki righted the ship, and she dispatched Kristina Mladenovic and Roberta Vinci in the last two rounds to claim her first title of 2014.
"I served well and pushed her around the court, and I really dictated the match," Wozniacki said, after her 6-1, 6-1 dismantling of Vinci in the final. “I’ve had a good week and am feeling good on hardcourts, which is great moving forward.”
In fact, the Dane’s hardcourt form was so much on the rise that she proved it by reaching her second US Open final later that summer.
Budapest's Best -- The Hungarian Ladies Open is now a treasured indoor stop at the end of the season, but Budapest served as the site of a mid-summer clay-court tournament through 2013. In that final clay-court edition, a rising Simona Halep won the title -- one of the six WTA singles titles she clinched that year.
Earlier in the event's history, Budapest was also the site of Alizé Cornet’s first-ever WTA singles title in 2008. Then just 18 years old, the Frenchwoman had recently skyrocketed into the Top 20 for the first time after a run to the final in Rome.
Just over a year after claiming the French Open junior girls’ singles title, Cornet came into Budapest on a high, and barnstormed to her maiden title without the loss of a set.
As the decades changed, homeland hero Agnes Szavay was responsible for a thrilling two-year run for the fans in the nation’s capital, as the former World No.13 went back-to-back with singles titles in 2009 and 2010.
Szavay had to fight back from a set down against top seed Patty Schnyder in the first of those championship runs, but recovered for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 final victory to please the excited crowd.
“In the first set, I was too excited and that gave the set to the more experienced Patty,'' said Szavay, following her victory. “I'm glad I managed to turn the score around and please the home crowd.''
The pair squared off in the final once again in the following year, and Szavay had an easier time this go-around, knocking off Schnyder in straight sets to claim her tenth straight match-win and second straight crown in Budapest.
Israeli star Anna Smashnova also triumphed in consecutive years, claiming the last two of her 12 WTA singles titles back-to-back in Budapest in 2005 and 2006.
Smashnova shone in Budapest during those two seasons, dropping just one set during her 10-match winning streak. After defending her title in 2006, her career record in WTA singles finals stood at a perfect 12-0 -- only to take her first-ever loss in a final later that summer in Forest Hills.
The diminutive (5’ 2”) Smashnova racked up most of her 12 titles during the early- and mid-2000s, peaking at a career-high ranking of World No.15 during that run.
Knokke-Heist: Smashing Streaks -- More good fortune came Anna Smashnova’s way in Knokke-Heist, as she grabbed another of her titles during the mid-summer swing at that event.
Unlike her late-career swell in Budapest, Smashnova’s championship run on the Belgian clay in 2000 came near the start of her WTA singles final-winning streak -- it was just her second career WTA singles title.
The Israeli, though, was equally imposing that week in Knokke-Heist, storming through her five matches without losing a set. Smashnova’s last straight-set win that week came at a cost for the fans, as she knocked out former Top 10 player and Belgian star Dominique van Roost in the final.
The following year, Knokke-Heist served as a springboard for the rise of long-time top Uzbek Iroda Tulyaganova. 1999 Wimbledon junior girls’ singles champion Tulyaganova had quickly started title-winning ways at WTA level, and came into the Belgian event having won the clay-court title in Vienna the week before.
Tulyaganova was seemingly unbothered by any possible fatigue, and stunned the Belgian crowd with a straight-set shocker of No.1 seed and homeland heroine Kim Clijsters in the semifinals.
Another straight-set win came in the final, over Gala Leon Garcia, and Tulyaganova had successfully claimed two trophies in two weeks. Her 2001 mid-summer winning streak was a large component of her career-high ranking of World No.16, which came exactly one year later.