The unseeded Magdalena Frech captured the biggest title of her career at the Thoreau Tennis Open 125 event in Concord, Massachusetts with a 6-3, 7-6(4) defeat of No.8 seed Renata Zarazua in the final.
The Pole came from an early break down in both sets to grind out the win in two hours and three minutes. A battle between two players more reliant on speed and strategy from the baseline than outright power, the match featured plenty of absorbing extended exchanges, but Frech's superior serve proved key. The World No.153 sent down five aces and won 71% of her first serve points compared to Zarazua's 62%.
"During the whole of the tournament, I think my serve was key," said Frech afterwards. "I was patient and I knew I can serve very well and earn the points."
The 23-year-old also pointed towards a previous encounter with Mexican World No.137 Zarazua this April, in the Charleston ITF W100 quarterfinals, as important.
"I won that in straight sets," Frech recalled. "It was different conditions, it was very windy and on clay, but I knew Renata and how she played. So I knew the tactics today from the beginning. But it was so tough, because she played so well - she was so sharp."
Off-court, Frech was also able to enjoy some home comforts, staying with Polish friends in private housing during her stay.
"Actually, they are almost like family now," she said. "I felt so good in the house, the atmosphere and everything. I could relax after the matches. Polish food, Polish breakfast and speaking the Polish language - that was all important!"
Frech's title run also included quality wins over No.9 seed Storm Sanders 6-3, 6-2 in the second round and No.4 seed Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals. The latter of those was the eighth Top 100 win of her career.
But it was her gruelling two hour, 43-minute 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 quarterfinal defeat of Katrina Scott that was the turning point for Frech. She trailed the 17-year-old American wildcard 2-5 in the deciding set, and had to save two match points as she reeled off the last five games of the match.
"That was the moment where I knew I can win every match, even if I'm 2-5 in the third set and two match points for her," recalled Frech. "She played really well, actually unbelievable - her rallies were so great. [Before this week] I felt confident, I knew that I was prepared, that I can beat some players. But I didn't know I could win the whole tournament."
The quarterfinal round contained some of the week's finest tennis at the Thoreau Club. Indeed, Frech and Scott had to complete their match the following day after two preceding matches turned into marathon battles.
The first of those was Zarazua's 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 upset of No.2 seed Hsieh Su-Wei, a feast of finesse tennis that featured a plethora of knife-edge multi-deuce tussles as it reached its third-set climax. With both players excelling on the dropshot and the lob, Zarazua held firm to close out victory despite a late Hsieh fightback from 5-3 to 5-5.
That match was followed by another gripping encounter as Zvonareva delivered a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 comeback over Georgian qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze in two hours and 50 minutes.
Zarazua would back up her Hsieh upset with a second Top 100 victory in a row, defeating No.3 seed Madison Brengle 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach her first WTA 125 final. Indeed, although both Frech and Zarazua have been Top 200 staples for some years, neither had previously contested a professional final about ITF W25 level before this week.
Now, Frech will aim to consolidate her position as she nears a Top 100 debut. Having previously reached a career-high of World No.115 in July 2018, the Concord title sees her rise back to World No.130 this week.
"I want to be main draw in the Australian Open," she declared. "That's my goal, and I will do anything to be there."
Elsewhere, World No.372 Scott's performance turned heads. The teenager had scored her first Top 100 win in last week's 125 event in Charleston on green clay, and immediately backed it up with her second this week by upsetting No.5 seed Lauren Davis 7-6(1), 7-5 in the first round.
Peangtarn Plipuech and Jessy Rompies also broke new ground to become the Concord doubles champions. In an all-unseeded final, the Thai-Indonesian duo overcame Usue Maitane Arconada and Cristina Bucsa 3-6, 7-6(5), [10-8] to win their first WTA 125 title.
Previously, Plipuech had been a two-time WTA 250 doubles runner-up, reaching the 2016 Seoul final with Akiko Omae (losing to Kirsten Flipkens and Johanna Larsson) and the 2017 Seoul final with Luksika Kumkhum (losing to Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson). Rompies had lost the only WTA 125 final she had contested before, coming runner-up with Nicha Lertpitaksinchai at Dalian 2016 to Lee Ya-Hsuan and Kotomi Takahata.
The final was the second knife-edge match tiebreak that Plipuech and Rompies had won. In the semifinals, they saved one match point before defeating Galina Voskoboeva and Zvonareva 4-6, 6-1, [11-9].