No.5 seed Diane Parry captured the biggest title of her career to date with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No.3 seed Panna Udvardy in the inaugural Montevideo Open final.
The 19-year-old Parry's first WTA 125 trophy caps a spectacular past five months. At the end of June, the Frenchwoman was ranked World No.342, but she has compiled a 40-14 record since Roland Garros to rocket up to a new career high this week of World No.115.
That has culminated in an excellent finish to 2021 on South American clay over the past month. Parry reached her first WTA 125 final in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, falling to Anna Bondar, and last week reached the Santiago ITF W60 semifinals as well.
Afterwards, Parry said that her 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 first-round loss to Aliaksandra Sasnovich as a wildcard in her home Grand Slam had been a motivating factor.
"I was of course disappointed with my loss in Roland Garros, because I felt that I could win that match," she said. "So I wanted to work hard after that loss to try to win that kind of match and to improve more and more.
"I was [also] disappointed and a little tired in the Buenos Aires final. So this time I wanted to win the match and get the trophy."
Parry dominated the field all week. The former junior World No.1 did not drop a set en route to the title - and indeed, did not lose more than three games in any set. After an early exchange of breaks against Udvardy, she seized control of the match with powerful returns and swashbuckling overheads to race to a 76-minute triumph.
Parry's rare single-handed backhand proved key both in creating sharp angles on offence and neutralising points with biting slice on defence.
"I always loved to play single-handed when I was a child," she said. "But I changed five or six years ago because in practice I tried some one-handed backhands just for fun. My coach told me to try to change in some tournaments. And I tried, and I love it. I think it's a good weapon in my game."
Udvardy's run to her first WTA 125 final was also the continuation of a stellar breakthrough season. The Hungarian extended her 2021 record to 68-26, including four ITF W25 titles, a maiden WTA quarterfinal on home soil in Budapest, and a Buenos Aires 125 semifinal run, where she also fell to Parry. Udvardy, 23, ended 2020 ranked World No.352, and has climbed to a new career high of World No.107 this week.
Jimenez Kasintseva overcomes travel trouble to reach semifinals
Another former junior World No.1, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, also enjoyed a noteworthy run. The 16-year-old had become the first Andorran woman to win a professional title the previous week at the Aparecida de Goiania ITF W25 event, beating Udvardy in the final, and backed that up with her first WTA 125 semifinal showing in Montevideo.
Along the way, Jimenez Kasintseva scored her first Top 100 win with a 6-3, 6-4 upset of No.1 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in the first round. In the second round, the teenager triumphed in a remarkable 7-6(10), 7-5, 5-7 match over Maria Lourdes Carle. Jimenez Kasintseva saved five set points in a first set that comprised 12 breaks of serve in 12 games, and fended off two match points at 4-5 in the third set. The 3-hour, 48-minute victory was the longest match of the 2021 WTA 125 season.
Jimenez Kasintseva's success was all the more impressive considering her difficulties in travelling from Aparecida de Goiania to Montevideo.
"The day before, I had a few problems," she said. "I lost my flight and I really didn't know if I could come. In fact, we had already thought of going back to Brazil. We were lucky to have people that helped us and finally we could get a flight at 11.30 and then I had to play at night.
"I also had to sleep at the airport, on the floor. I had never done that before and I hope not to do it ever again! I really didn’t think I would play so well - another country, new sensations, courts, the wind which was quite uncomfortable. Playing at night I couldn’t see properly, my eyes were closed and was playing against the No.1. I was thinking, 'I am not going to manage to win,' but I solved the problems, I tried to be calm. I told myself, 'You already have enough problems so try to stay calm.'"
Jimenez Kasintseva ultimately ran out of steam in a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 semifinal loss to Udvardy, but she has risen to a new career high of World No.252 as a result of her results in Aparecida de Goiania and Montevideo.
Hartono ends Bondar streak, Mintegi Del Olmo reaches last eight
No.2 seed Anna Bondar entered Montevideo as the player in the hottest form, having won her first WTA 125 title in Buenos Aires two weeks ago and followed it with the Santiago ITF W60 title. But the Hungarian's 10-match winning streak was abruptly ended by Arianne Hartono 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round.
Hartono, the 2018 NCAA Division I singles champion, impressed on her WTA debut in Luxembourg this September, where she reached the second round and took Jelena Ostapenko to three sets. The Dutchwoman's aggressive striking was on full display as she posted her second career Top 100 win over Bondar.
However, Hartono would in turn fall victim to another former junior champion making waves in Montevideo. Wildcard Ane Mintegi Del Olmo, the reigning Wimbledon girls' champion, routed Hartono 6-0, 6-2 to reach her first WTA 125 quarterfinal. In the last eight, the 18-year-old Spaniard lost 6-3, 6-1 to eventual champion Parry.
Bara, Gorgodze resume winning ways with doubles title
Irina Bara and Ekaterine Gorgodze have quietly put together a dominant doubles surge in the last quarter of 2021. The No.1 seeds captured their fourth title since September and extended their season record to 15-1 with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Carolina Alves and Marina Bassols Ribera in the Montevideo final.
The Romanian-Georgian duo won their first WTA title at the Transylvania Open, Cluj-Napoca last month, as well as two previous WTA 125 titles in Karlsruhe and Buenos Aires. Their only loss together this year came at the smallest tournament they contested - Bara and Gorgodze fell 6-7(8), 6-2, [10-6] to Katharina Gerlach and Daniela Seguel in the Santiago ITF W60 semifinals last week.
Gorgodze also enjoyed a successful tournament in singles, reaching her first WTA 125 semifinal before falling 6-2, 6-2 to Parry.