No.2 seed Nuria Párrizas Díaz continued her remarkable breakthrough season by lifting her second WTA 125 trophy of the year at the Tennis Ohio Championships, defeating No.8 seed Wang Xinyu 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final in one hour and 36 minutes.
The Spaniard leapt out to a quick 5-2 lead, but needed to save two set points serving at 5-6 after Wang found her range to reel off four games in a row. However, Párrizas Díaz responded by raising her game with some stellar aggressive play, and dominated the ensuing tiebreak and second set with impressive flat hitting on the fast Columbus indoor courts.
Párrizas Díaz's surge has been one of the stories of the year, taking late blooming to a new level. She played her first pro tournament in 2006, but prior to this year had never been ranked higher than World No.197. Over the course of 2021, she has compiled a 53-15 record, with this week's tournament win adding to her Bastad 125 trophy on clay in July as well as five ITF titles.
The most recent of the latter, at the Landisville ITF W100 three weeks ahead of the US Open, enabled Párrizas Díaz to make her Top 100 debut at the age of 30, becoming the fourth-oldest player to break that barrier since WTA rankings were instituted. The Columbus title lifts her to a new career high of World No.73.
Afterwards, Párrizas Díaz credited coach Carlos Boluda Purkiss, whom she started dating in lockdown last year, for her unexpected rise. Former ATP player Boluda Purkiss quit his own career in order to start travelling with Párrizas Díaz last year.
"The key, not only for this week but for the whole year, is that we started working together in December," said Párrizas Díaz. "Carlos is changing my life in tennis. This is true, because I didn't think I'd be in this position. I didn't believe because I was playing my career alone, so I just went to tournaments and played. The first time Carlos said, 'I'm going to coach you,' he was believing in me so much. Now I don't know what my limit is.
"Now I'm making money, next year I'm gonna play the main draw of Grand Slams, so the only thing I have to say to Carlos is 'Thank you'. In the first months, he changed me a lot. The first months were really tough to me because we changed many, many things. But now it's only to do the same things day by day and to grow.
"Top 100 was so good, now I'm 73 it's so good. But it's not the number, it's the work we are doing every day. The number will come from the work and we are not stopping, we will continue."
Párrizas Díaz also made the quarterfinals of Bogota in April on her WTA main draw debut, and made the same stage of Gdynia in July. Having made her Grand Slam qualifying debut at the 2020 Australian Open, she qualified for the main draw of a major for the first time at this year's US Open.
This week, after defeating American teenagers Elvina Kalieva and Hailey Baptiste, Párrizas Díaz's toughest tests came in the next two rounds. In the quarterfinals, she battled past No.7 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2 in two hours and 31 minutes, then followed that up by overcoming No.4 seed Zheng Saisai 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 48 minutes.
Wang, Zheng spearhead Chinese renaissance with singles runs, doubles title
Many of the WTA's Chinese cohort have struggled to find form since the WTA Tour resumption. Zheng, who was at a career high of World No.34 just before the 2020 shutdown, fell out of the Top 50 after compiling a 6-13 record through Wimbledon this year. Wang's record at WTA level was 2-5 in the same period, and both players skipped the August North American hardcourt swing to return home for the Chinese National Games.
But Zheng and Wang both impressed with battling runs in Columbus. Zheng had won the Caldas da Rainha ITF W60 in Portugal the week prior, and came from a set down three times to extend her winning streak to eight. The 27-year-old saved two match points in her opener before beating Asia Muhammad 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(0), and followed that with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over qualifier Alexa Glatch and a 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat of No.6 seed Lauren Davis.
Wang came from a set down in her first two rounds against Liang En-Shuo and Mariam Bolkvadze, but thereafter hit her stride to defeat No.3 seed Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and CoCo Vandeweghe 7-6(3), 6-2 in the semifinals. Wang, who turned 20 on the day of the final, rises to a new career high of World No.119 as a result.
Both Wang and Zheng would be undone by eventual champion Párrizas Díaz in singles, but got their revenge in the doubles final, joining forces to defeat Párrizas Díaz and Dalila Jakupovic 6-1, 6-1. The unseeded Chinese team also beat No.1 seeds Ingrid Neel and Sabrina Santamaria 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Former World No.9 Vandeweghe was the only unseeded player in the Columbus quarterfinal lineup, where she dealt out the biggest upset of the tournament 6-4, 6-4 over No.1 seed Ann Li. The American, continuing her comeback from complex regional pain syndrome and hand surgery, was another player whose big-hitting game thrived indoors. Having snapped a five-match losing streak at the start of the week, Vandeweghe's semifinal showing lifts her back to World No.143.