Veronika Kudermetova swept to her first career WTA singles title Sunday with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Danka Kovinic in the Volvo Car Open final.
"When I came here, I said to myself, ‘Veronika, you just need to work, that’s it, and we will see how you play here,’" Kudermetova said in her post-match press conference. "When I started to play matches, I focused just on tactics, work, and that’s it. And I think match by match, I started to play really well.
"All the matches were really tough. It’s really tough matches for nerves, and the tennis part, but I’m really proud of myself that I can take the first title. I’m really happy."
The No.15 seed Kudermetova did not drop a set all week as she won a 96-minute battle between two players seeking a first title. The Russian is the first Charleston champion to have a flawless set record since Serena Williams in 2012.
"It means a lot," Kudermetova said. "It shows me that I can play really well, that I can beat good players, and if I play like this and keep working, I think I can be in the Top 10 or higher."
World No.38 Kudermetova became the fifth first-time winner this season, just minutes after Maria Camila Osorio Serrano also picked up her first title in Bogota.
The victory continues a breakthrough 2021 for 23-year-old Kudermetova, who reached her first WTA singles final at the season-opening event in Abu Dhabi (losing to Aryna Sabalenka).
Kudermetova's six aces in the final makes her the current ace leader on tour for the season. She has slammed 130 aces thus far this year, which puts her ahead of second-place Ashleigh Barty (127).
"Right now," Kudermetova exclaimed, "but we have more months, and somebody can beat me in aces!"
Those aces were six of Kudermetova's 22 winners, compared to just 19 unforced errors by the Russian. By contrast, World No.91 Kovinic had those totals flipped almost exactly, with the Montenegrin's 18 winners being outweighed by 22 unforced errors.
Kudermetova started with a break of Kovinic in the opening game of the match before Kovinic’s tremendous footspeed allowed her to extend rallies and force errors from the Russian, pulling her back level at 2-2.
A lengthy hold for 3-3, though, served Kudermetova well, and she gritted out the next long game as well, which ended with Kovinic misfiring on two straight dropshots to cede the service break.
More outstanding defense by Kovinic helped her fend off two set points at 5-3, but aggressive play by Kudermetova got her the one-set lead in the next game, as she ended the frame with an error-forcing overhead.
The powerful play by Kudermetova continued unabated in the second set, as she fired an ace to hold for 2-2, then used a stunning return to set up an overhead winner and break for 3-2, on her third break point of the game.
At the end of one more protracted game, another superb crosscourt forehand gave the Russian a second break and a 5-2 lead. Kudermetova successfully used her stellar delivery to serve out the match with ease and clinch her first WTA singles trophy.
"[Last] night, I didn’t sleep really good, because I’m thinking about the match, and that I can take my first title," Kudermetova said. "When I stepped on the court, I was a little bit nervous, to be honest. But I tried to work, not think about [how] this is the final or something special, just work and that’s it."
In the doubles final, No.1 seeds Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs completed their week with a title, defeating unseeded Czechs Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka, 6-2, 6-4.
"We’re super happy, we’re super pleased," Melichar told the press after the victory. "Every time we win a title, it’s really exciting for us. To transition from the hardcourt to the clay and win right away in your first week, I think that’s incredible.
"We kept each other up this whole week, sometimes I was playing well, sometimes Demi was playing well, and we had to bring each other up. So I think our communication, our support was key."
Since starting their partnership last season, Melichar and Schuurs are now 3-0 in doubles finals as a team. Overall, this is the 10th WTA doubles title for Melichar and a 14th for Schuurs.
"If you just see our games, they fit with each other," Schuurs said. "We’re just good friends, on-court and also off-court, and we practice together a lot when we’re on the road, and I think that’s an advantage. You always can practice every day, you keep improving, practicing to be better."
Melichar and Schuurs swept well ahead in the first set, and broke the Czechs’ serves for a third straight time as Melichar cut off a winning volley to close out the one-set lead.
Four straight service breaks came early in the second set, as the pairs stayed closer than they had in the first set. But a clutch volley winner by Schuurs on deciding point at 4-4 gave the top seeds the upper hand, and they stormed to a love break of Bouzkova in the next game to claim the crown.