No.3 seed Anna Bondar continued to surge in a career-best season, capturing her first WTA 125 title at the Argentina Open with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of No.7 seed Diane Parry in one hour and 19 minutes.
The tournament marked its return to the WTA Tour after a 34-year hiatus. Its last edition was won by former World No.3 Gabriela Sabatini, who defeated Isabel Cueto 6-0, 6-2 in the 1987 final.
Bondar, a former Top 20 junior, extended her overall 2021 record to 57-26. It includes her maiden WTA quarterfinal in Gdynia in July, as well as the ITF W80 title in Le Neubourg in September. The Hungarian rose to a career high of World No.131 last month, and entered Buenos Aires as the World No.135.
"It feels amazing," said Bondar afterwards. "It's my first but hopefully not the last. As they say, the first one is always special, so Buenos Aires is going to take a special place in my heart.
"I improved mentally [this year]. In the middle of the summer I had a kind of click. I played bigger tournaments and I had big wins, so I got more confident. I started to believe I belong to this level. I think my game has just been in one piece all week."
Highlights: Bondar d. Sherif
Bondar's title run started in emphatic fashion with a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Irene Burillo Escorihuela, and she only dropped one set over the course of the week. That was to No.1 seed Mayar Sherif in the semifinals, a match Bondar won 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 29 minutes for her fourth Top 100 win of the year.
"That was a key moment for me," said Bondar of the win over Sherif. "I was expecting a really tough match because I know how tough she is mentally and physically, and she loves clay. I had so many chances in the first set that I missed, so it was really tough to come back mentally - but I'm really happy that I pulled through it, and it gave me confidence."
The 24-year-old also claimed two wins over former junior World No.1s in Buenos Aires. In the second round, she edged past Andorran 16-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva 6-4, 7-5, and in the final was too solid for the 19-year-old Parry.
Bondar's booming serve was the foundation of her success. She won 81% of the points behind her first delivery in the final, and saved all four break points she faced. It was backed up by a powerful forehand and a sprinkling of judiciously-timed dropshots which caught Parry entirely off guard.
"It was a tough match, even though it was two sets," said Bondar. "She was fighting really well. But I could dominate most of the time and I could play my game, so it helped me to stay aggressive."
Highlights: Parry d. Haddad Maia
The Frenchwoman has also been enjoying a career-best season, and arrived in Buenos Aires fresh off cracking the Top 200 for the first time in September and winning her third ITF W25 title of the year in Seville last month. Parry hit another milestone in the quarterfinals this week when she scored her first Top 100 win over No.2 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 and, like Bondar, was contesting her maiden WTA 125 final.
As a rare teenager with a one-handed backhand, Parry arguably represents the shot's best hope of long-term survival on the WTA Tour. However, though her ability to mix up heavy topspin, knifing slice and flat drives on that wing was stylish enough, the World No.174's forehand was her major weapon. Indeed, Bondar spent much of the match successfully breaking down the Parry backhand, targeting that side on almost every big point.
Sherif, Udvardy save match points en route to last four
Bondar wasn't the only example of young Hungarian success this week. No.5 seed Panna Udvardy, also a former Top 20 junior, has won four ITF W25 titles in 2021 to rise to a career high of World No.128. The 23-year-old delivered a battling performance to reach the biggest semifinal of her career in Buenos Aires, extending her season record to 60-24.
Udvardy came back from a set and 2-5 down against Laura Pigossi in the second round, saving three match points en route to a 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over the Brazilian which clocked in at three hours and 18 minutes - the longest contest of the tournament. Udvardy backed that up with a seesaw 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 upset of No.4 seed Irina Bara in the quarterfinals.
"We are all very close to the Top 100," said Bondar of her fellow countrywomen now making moves up the rankings - also including Budapest semifinalist Dalma Galfi, the World No.123.
"I think we are motivating each other - if one of us can do it, the others can do it also. I really hope we can all do it."
Highlights: Sherif d. Lazaro Garcia
Sherif, who was bidding for her second WTA 125 title after winning Karlsruhe in September, was almost tripped up at the first hurdle. The trailblazing Egyptian fended off one match point in the first round before overcoming Andrea Lazaro Garcia 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2).
However, she was then able to sweep past Katharina Gerlach and No.6 seed Ekaterine Gorgodze in straight sets before falling to Bondar.
#ArgOpenWTA 🏆— Argentina Open (@ArgentinaOpen) November 7, 2021
¡EKATERINE GORGODZE E IRINA BARA CAMPEONAS DEL DOBLES!
En un partidazo, las máximas favoritas vencieron a Lourdes Carlé 🇦🇷 & Despina Papamichail 🇬🇷 por 5-7 7-5 [10-4] 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/rG9bU96kor
Bara, Gorgodze claim doubles title, remain unbeaten in 2021
Singles quarterfinalists Bara and Gorgodze also enjoyed a successful doubles tournament, coming from a set and 3-5 down to beat the unseeded Maria Lourdes Carle and Despina Papamichail 5-7, 7-5, [10-4]. Carle and Papamichail served for the title and held two championship points at 5-4 in the second set, but were denied by the Romanian-Georgian duo.
Bara and Gorgodze have now competed in three tournaments together this year - and won them all. They were the Karlsruhe 125 champions in September, and won their maiden WTA doubles titles at the Transylvania Open, Cluj-Napoca last week. Their Buenos Aires run extended their winning streak as a pair to 11 matches.