No.1 seed Madison Brengle claimed her second WTA 125 title with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of the unseeded Robin Anderson at the Dow Tennis Classic in one hour and 36 minutes. However, Anderson could console herself with victory in the USTA's Australian Open Wildcard Challenge, which has earned her a Grand Slam main draw debut in Melbourne next year.
Brengle, 31, had previously also won the 2019 Newport Beach 125 title, defeating Stefanie Voegele in the final. This week marks the second time she has become champion in Midland, having lifted her first ITF W100 trophy here in 2018 with victory over Jamie Loeb in the final.
The former World No.35 has now won two of her last three tournaments, having also captured the ITF W80 title in Macon last month. Since Indian Wells, she has compiled a 15-2 record.
The moment Madison Brengle captured her second Midland title!— Dow Tennis Classic (@DowTennisCL) November 7, 2021
She defeats Anderson 6-2, 6-4. pic.twitter.com/av4ySYYHr7
Having been a fixture on the ITF World Tennis Tour since 1994, with previous champions including Chanda Rubin (1995), Anna Kournikova (1996) and Li Na (2002), this was the first year the Dow Tennis Classic was operating as a WTA 125 event.
In the final, Brengle blended indefatigable defence with canny counterpunching to keep Anderson's aggressive game at bay. Time and again, World No.214 Anderson made her way to the net only to find Brengle picking her off with a precise pass. In the second set, the 28-year-old played some of her best tennis to level the score after falling behind an early break, but could not quite reel Brengle in completely.
"I like playing indoor tennis," said Brengle afterwards. "It's how I grew up playing - and I like not getting the sun, that's a big bonus for me. The key was trying to keep the ball deep and moving it around - that's what I've done well this whole week, being consistent but aggressive."
Set 1️⃣: Lao 7-6(2)— Dow Tennis Classic (@DowTennisCL) November 6, 2021
Set 2️⃣: Brengle 7-6(8)
Drama 🆙 Who will claim a spot in the final? pic.twitter.com/K7nNvJtZdK
Brengle's title run featured contrasting victories. In the first round, she needed to come from a set down to defeat Asia Muhammad 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; but then she dropped just two games in the next two rounds, beating Sachia Vickery 6-2, 6-0 before whitewashing No.7 seed Lizette Cabrera 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, she needed to save a match point in the second-set tiebreak before overcoming Danielle Lao 6-7, 7-6(8), 6-0 after two hours and 48 minutes.
"I never feel like I'm out of it," said Brengle. "Even though I was down match point, you just have to fight, first point to the last. Danielle was playing unbelievably well, so I knew I just had to keep plugging away. If I lost, I lost, but I was going to give myself the best opportunity."
Reflecting on her season, Brengle pinpointed Wimbledon as her favourite moment off-court.
"Even though it was a bubble, I had a lot of fun," she said. "Arina Rodionova was there and she's one of my best friends on tour. When we're at tournaments together, regardless of whatever Covid stuff is going on, she makes it fun. What do we do together? We drink. We drink heavily."
On court, though, little compares to the feeling of victory.
"I've won some tough matches - but in Macon and here, winning tournaments makes me happiest."
Anderson reaches biggest career final, wins Australian Open wildcard
Anderson enjoyed a career-best week with a significant bonus. She knocked off fast-rising teenagers in consecutive rounds to reach the biggest final of her career, beating 17-year-old wildcard Katrina Scott 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and 19-year-old No.5 seed Caty McNally 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.
The UCLA alumna, who has yet to compete in a WTA main draw, thus earned herself the top spot in the Australian Open Wildcard Challenge, which guarantees a place in next year's Australian Open main draw to the American player who has racked up the most hardcourt points within a four-week window.
Midland was the final week of the Challenge for WTA players; entering the tournament, Anderson was in fifth place. However, the door was opened for her after all four players ahead of her lost before the quarterfinals, including the 18-year-old leader Elvina Kalieva, and Anderson seized her opportunity with gusto.
Elsewhere, one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament was won by No.2 seed Misaki Doi 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(5) over 19-year-old Katie Volynets. Doi had arrived in Midland on a wave of confidence after winning the ITF W80 title in Tyler last week, and led Volynets 5-2 in the third set, but ultimately needed nine match points to finally put away the American teenager after two hours and 40 minutes.
The Japanese player ultimately made it to the quarterfinals before a right thigh injury forced her to retire trailing 2019 champion McNally 6-4, 4-2.
Dart, Muhammad capture doubles title over Plipuech, Sutjiadi
Harriet Dart and Asia Muhammad both lost in the first round of the singles tournament, but joined forces for the first time to take the doubles title as the No.2 seeds. The British-American duo overcame No.3 seeds Peangtarn Plipuech and Aldila Sutjiadi 6-3, 2-6, [10-7] in the final.
While Muhammad already owns six WTA doubles titles, as well as one prior WTA 125 trophy at Indian Wells 2020 alongside Taylor Townsend, this marks Dart's biggest title to date and first at WTA 125 level.
Dart and Muhammad ended Plipuech's hot streak in American WTA 125 tournaments. The Thai player had already claimed the doubles titles in Concord (with Jessy Rompies) and Chicago (with Eri Hozumi) this year.