Paula Badosa's breakthrough season garnered two big milestones at the Serbia Ladies Open on Saturday, as the Spaniard reached her first-ever WTA singles final in the afternoon, then followed up by winning her first WTA singles title in the evening.
No.4 seed Badosa claimed the crown after qualifier Ana Konjuh unfortunately had to retire due to a right hip injury in the final, while Badosa was leading 6-2, 2-0. Badosa finished the week without the loss of a set as her stellar clay-court season reached a new zenith with the championship.
"I’m really, really happy I could win my first WTA title," Badosa told the press, after her win. "I’ve been chasing this since a long time, so finally I have it here with me."
Badosa had reached her third straight semifinal on Friday, having posted final four appearances in her last two events, in Charleston (where she defeated World No.1 Ashleigh Barty) and Madrid (where Barty got revenge).
But Badosa had never reached a WTA singles final until her first of two matches on Saturday, where she dispatched lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova 6-1, 6-2 in just 63 minutes.
Badosa propelled herself through her second match of the day by winning 82 percent of her first-service points before Konjuh retired. World No.44 Badosa has now won 13 of her last 15 matches on tour, and is projected to make her Top 40 debut in Monday's singles rankings.
"I’m super happy, and I’m super proud of myself," Badosa said. "All this week, I think I played at a very good level and I was feeling quite well."
"Today wasn’t an easy day, not even in the morning," the Spaniard added. "In the afternoon, I think I played an amazing first set, I think I played at a very good level. Ana’s an amazing player, I’m so sorry for her we have to finish like this, but the part that I was playing, I think it was quite good so I’m happy with the level."
Despite the unfortunate ending, it was still a superb week for former World No.20 Konjuh, who struggled with elbow injuries and surgeries and fell out of the Top 1,000 in 2019. On Friday, Konjuh made her first WTA singles semifinal since 's-Hertogenbosch in June 2017.
The Croat then posted a hard-fought 7-6(6), 7-6(4) victory over fellow qualifier and rising teen Maria Camila Osorio Serrano on Saturday morning, to return to her first WTA singles final since Auckland in January 2017.
The afflicted Konjuh was hindered in her quest to win her second match of the day and second career WTA singles title, but she is projected to return to at least the Top 150 on Monday -- her best ranking since 2018.
After a challenging semifinal earlier in the day, Konjuh struggled with the pace and precision from Badosa early in the final, as the seeded player garnered a double-break lead to 3-0. The powerful Konjuh slammed a backhand return winner to break for 3-1, but deft variety and defense by Badosa helped her reclaim that large advantage with a break in the very next game.
After double faulting twice in a row at 5-1, Konjuh faced a set point, but she wiped that away with a forehand crosscourt winner, eventually gritting out a hold. But Badosa had no concerns serving out the opening frame in the next game, as she pulled herself to a set from victory.
Badosa fired a backhand passing winner to break Konjuh in the opening game of the second set, and after a hold for 2-0, the Spaniard had yet to hit an unforced error in that set. At that point, the hip was causing Konjuh too much trouble, and the qualifier had to retire from her first final in over four years.
"Yesterday in the match, I kind of pulled my hip flexor," Konjuh told the press, after the match. "I tried to get it right, but the match this morning didn’t really help. It’s been a hell of a fight."
"To be in the finals again, it’s been a while for me, and it just means a lot after everything that I’ve been through," Konjuh added. "To see that I could play at this level again, it’s great."