No.3 seed Mayar Sherif continued her trailblazing ways at the Liqui Moly Open 2021 Karlsruhe 125 event, claiming both the biggest title of her career and the biggest title ever won by an Egyptian woman after defeating No.4 seed Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
World No.96 Sherif's superior weight of shot allowed her to dominate proceedings in the one-hour, 36-minute final. The 25-year-old was in front throughout, and though Trevisan provided valiant resistance in crucial passages of play early in each set, Sherif was able to emerge on top and pull away both times.
In the first, Trevisan recovered an early break to get back on serve at 3-2 - only for Sherif to edge two deuce games to move up to 5-2. In the second, the Italian saved three break points in the first game and then stretched Sherif to five deuces, the longest game of the match - but Sherif held on and accelerated through six of the last seven games.
"[The key was] being brave, going for my shots, staying mentally calm and trusting myself," said Sherif afterwards. "It feels great, it feels like another achievement - I just keep growing up as a player and as a person."
The win adds to a stellar breakthrough season for Sherif, who became the first Egyptian woman to win a Grand Slam main draw match at the Australian Open, to reach a WTA final in Cluj-Napoca in July, and subsequently to crack the Top 100.
A title was the last piece of the puzzle: Sherif fell 6-1, 6-1 to Andrea Petkovic in Cluj-Napoca, one of the three finals she had lost in 2021 prior to this week. The others were both at ITF W60 level, to Anhelina Kalinina in Montpellier in July and to Arantxa Rus in San Bartolomé de Tirajana in August.
"This time I was just ready," said Sherif, comparing the Karlsruhe final to the previous trio. "I didn't expect anything from myself, I just wanted to be brave and go for my shots, and it worked out."
In Karlsruhe, Sherif lost just one set, defeating Jaqueline Cristian 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 in a two-hour, 50-minute semifinal spread over two days due to darkness. She had needed to finish off that match from 2-2 in the decider before returning to play both singles and doubles finals. It was the second epic the pair have played this year: Cristian had got the better of Sherif 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(1) over three hours and three minutes in Roland Garros qualifying.
"I didn't recover, I barely slept!" laughed Sherif about the overnight delay. "I slept like four hours. But I know I slept so little, so I put extra attention and that actually worked. And obviously the amazing physios here in the tournament were important."
Prior to that, Sherif had made her way into the final four with little fuss, dispatching wildcard Sina Herrmann 6-0, 6-2, Katarzyna Kawa 6-3, 6-4 and Rebecca Sramkova 6-3, 6-2.
Sherif is entering the home stretch of her first full season on the WTA Tour, one in which she compiled an 11-11 record through July but 21-8 since.
"I learned that it's tough, it's not easy," she reflected. "I got a lot of experience, I learned a lot from the ups and the downs, and I think that as a player I grew up a lot. Especially from the bad things, I learned a lot - that's why the first part of the season was not as good as the second part. But I'm happy that I used the bad half and moved on from it.
"I saw what the level is in Grand Slams and I don't see that it's far - but it needs time and experience, every base and every step has it's own time. I'm going to be patient. I can't wait for what's coming for me, and to learn more from a high level of tennis."
Trevisan turns around season; Cristian, Bondar, Schunk deal out upsets
Trevisan's run to the final was a much-needed boost for the World No.106. Since reaching the Roland Garros quarterfinals as a qualifier last year, the 27-year-old's record was just 8-21 (and 2-13 in WTA main draws) coming into Karlsruhe.
But Trevisan built on a quality win over CoCo Vandeweghe at the US Open two weeks ago to come through a series of tight matches here. She won crucial tiebreaks in each of her first three rounds to get past Anastasia Gasanova, Grace Min and Dalma Galfi, before triumphing 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 over Gdynia champion Maryna Zanevska in the semifinals.
There were a plethora of early upsets at the tournament. The top two seeds both lost their openers: Cristian recovered from a set and a break down, having missed four set points in the first set, to claim her fourth career Top 100 victory over No.1 Clara Burel 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-2. Hungarian World No.199 Anna Bondar would triumph in the longest match of the week over No.2 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5 in three hours and 10 minutes.
Burel and Schmiedlova were followed out in the first round by No.5 Kaja Juvan, who was defeated 6-4, 6-1 by Sramkova. Wildcard Nastasja Schunk, 18, also scored a notable win. The German was the Wimbledon junior runner-up in July, and has since won her first two ITF W25 titles in Bydgoszcz and Braunschweig. Now ranked World No.441, Schunk scored a career-best victory 6-2, 6-4 over No.7 seed Astra Sharma in the second round before losing to Cristian.
Bara, Gorgodze claim first WTA 125 doubles crown
Sherif was unable to pull off a trophy double in Karlsruhe. Instead, the doubles title was taken by No.4 seeds Irina Bara and Ekaterine Gorgodze, who edged No.3 seeds Katarzyna Piter and Sherif 6-3, 2-6, [10-7]. Piter and Sherif were also runners-up in Cluj-Napoca in July.
It is the biggest doubles trophy to date for both Bara and Gorgodze. Romania's Bara had never before reached a WTA final, while Georgia's Gorgodze had previously been doubles runner-up at Palermo 2019 at 250 level (with Arantxa Rus), and at the Bol 125 this June (with Tereza Mihalikova).