Another Top 10 showdown at the Sydney Tennis Classic came down to the wire, where World No.9 Paula Badosa edged No.4 Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4).
The week ended with another thriller as Badosa of Spain held off the Czech Republic's Krejcikova to obtain victory after 2 hours and 22 minutes of closely contested power tennis. Badosa takes home her third career WTA singles title out of three finals.
Fast facts: Badosa and Krejcikova were the two biggest movers into the Top 10 during the 2021 season. Krejcikova started 2021 ranked No.65 and Badosa even lower at No.70, but both had career-best seasons to finish the year in the elite and earn spots at the year-end Akron WTA Finals.
But Badosa had Krejcikova's number coming into the Sydney final, holding a 2-0 head-to-head lead. Both of those meetings came last year, and they each finished with identical 6-1, 7-5 score lines in Badosa's favor, once on the clay of Madrid and once on the hard courts at Indian Wells.
On Saturday, Krejcikova took her first set against Badosa. She nearly emulated her comeback win over Anett Kontaveit from Friday's semifinals, where she prevailed in a third-set tiebreak after saving seven match points.
However, Badosa refused to let Krejcikova repeat that feat, keeping her undefeated record against reigning Roland Garros champion Krejcikova alive.
Badosa's two biggest titles have been won with third-set tiebreaks in the final. The Spaniard defeated Victoria Azarenka via third-set tiebreak to claim the WTA 1000 title at Indian Wells last year, and she has now pulled it off again at the Sydney WTA 500 event.
Paula Badosa is now 3-0 in finals.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 15, 2022
Badosa’s two biggest titles - Indian Wells and Sydney - were decided in a final set tiebreak. She has won her last 10 tiebreaks.
Title route in Sydney:
The champion speaks: In her post-match press conference, Badosa said she was "super excited. After the level of this final, even more. Amazing week, amazing final. I'm very happy.
"Details [made the difference]. Maybe one winner that I hit, one serve, maybe she missed one ball. Sometimes, these kind of matches, it's one point or two. I had the same experience in Indian Wells final. It changes for nothing. I'm really happy that I won my way. I think the good thing is that I played in a very high level and that I fought until the end.
"It's very nice, as I said in the ceremony, [Krejcikova and I] broke into the Top 100, it was like the same year, almost the same week. So it's very nice to now be both in Top 10 and playing big finals, and I hope we can play much more, because it's very nice to play against her."
Tale of the match: Badosa made her big move in the first set when she slammed three aces in a row to hold for 3-3. Powerful forehands helped the Spaniard grab a critical break in the very next game, and she closed out the opening set with a break at love behind overwhelming service returns.
But Krejcikova amped up her aggression in the second set, and just as she had in her semifinal victory, the Czech claimed a much-needed break at 4-4, this time with a winning forehand. Krejcikova served out the set with ease in the following game to level the affair.
Badosa took the early 2-0 lead in the final set, but Krejcikova struck right back, and once again, the Czech was determined to stage a comeback victory. There were no more breaks of service for the remainder of the match as the pair methodically moved into the tiebreak.
Compared to Friday's semifinal, which featured a combined 12 match points, the tail-end of the final was relatively routine. After Krejcikova barely missed a down-the-line forehand to give Badosa a 4-2 advantage, the Spaniard used a strong backhand to draw an error from the Czech and lead 5-2. Badosa eased to victory from there, converting her second match point to take the crown.
Next up: Badosa is seeded No.8 at the year's first Grand Slam, the 2022 Australian Open, which starts Monday. She opens against Aussie hope Ajla Tomljanovic, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year. Badosa beat Tomljanovic in the second round this week.
"Of course [winning the title] gives me a lot of confidence, especially with the level I have played this week," Badosa said. "Of course [I am] tired. I play Monday. I will have to fly tonight, so let's see how I recover. But I will try to give my best there. I'm playing in a high level. Let's see. I'm looking forward to it."
Krejcikova is seeded No.4 at the Australian Open and will face former Top 10 player Andrea Petkovic of Germany in the first round.
If seedings hold, Badosa and Krejcikova could meet again in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Dramatic doubles: The doubles final also came down to the bitter end, with Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil outlasting Germany's Vivian Heisen and Hungary's Panna Udvardy 4-6, 7-5, [10-8].
After eking out the second set, Danilina and Haddad Maia took a commanding 9-2 lead in the match-tiebreak before Heisen and Udvardy chipped away at their lead, saving six championship points in a row to pull to 9-8.
At last, Danilina and Haddad Maia took their seventh chance to close out the nail-biter after 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Both of the victors remain undefeated in WTA doubles finals. Danilina improves to 2-0 in doubles finals, adding to her title from Gdynia last season. Haddad Maia is now 3-0 in doubles finals, with her previous trophies both coming at Bogota in 2015 and 2017.