Former World No.1 Angelique Kerber of Germany captured her first clay-court title in more than six years after a nail-biting 7-6(5), 6-7(0), 7-6(5) triumph against Kaja Juvan in the Internationaux de Strasbourg final.
In the longest Hologic WTA Tour singles final of the season, the three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber took 3 hours and 16 minutes to stop World No.81 Juvan, who put up a strong fight in her first singles final.
The No.2 seed Kerber, currently ranked No.22, earned her first title of the season and the 14th title of her career with the win. Before this week, the German's most recent clay-court trophy was a win on home soil in Stuttgart in 2016.
Kerber's revenge: In their only previous meeting, Juvan upset Kerber on the clay courts at 2020 Roland Garros with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-3 win. The 21-year-old Juvan nearly improved to 2-0 against the former top-ranked player.
Kerber battled through the three tiebreak sets to take home the crown and level their head-to-head at 1-1. The pair were separated by little throughout the duration, finishing the final with 83 winners and six service breaks apiece.
The victory helps turn around Kerber's season going into Roland Garros next week. She had won only two matches in 2022 before arriving in Strasbourg, but she is now on a winning streak as she approaches a first-round clash with Magdalena Frech at the French Open.
Juvan, who is projected to reach a new career-high ranking after this week, plays teenage qualifier Oksana Selekhmeteva in her Roland Garros opener.
Match breakdown: Juvan led 5-2 in the first set and held a set point at 5-4, but Kerber battled back from that deficit to reach the tiebreak. Kerber's 4-1 lead disappeared when Juvan polished off a volley to reach 4-4. But Kerber used an error-forcing backhand to garner her first set point at 6-5, which she converted with a rally forehand winner.
After the 59-minute first set, a 62-minute second set took place. Despite going just 2-for-10 on break points in the set, Juvan reached another tiebreak, where loose errors by Kerber gave Juvan a 3-0 lead. Juvan fired confident winners and swept the remaining points of the tiebreak to tie the match.
Simply INCREDIBLE 🤯— wta (@WTA) May 21, 2022
In one of the matches (and match points) of the season, 🇩🇪 @AngeliqueKerber clinches a 14th career WTA title with a 7-6(5), 6-7(0), 7-6(5) victory over Juvan in Strasbourg!!#IS22 pic.twitter.com/yrXzhnUSKc
The 73-minute third set was decided by one final tiebreak. The duo went back and forth until Kerber deployed a winning drop shot to reach double championship point at 6-4. On her second opportunity, Kerber executed a stunning passing winner to seal the hard-fought title.
Doubles delight: Sunday's doubles final also went down to the wire, with the first-time pairing of Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Daria Saville edging No.1 seeds Lucie Hradecka and Sania Mirza 5-7, 7-5, [10-6].
From 3-0 down in the match-tiebreak, Melichar-Martinez and Saville reeled off eight straight points to take an 8-3 lead, then held on for the 1-hour and 55-minute win.
Melichar-Martinez is now up to 11 career WTA doubles titles. She also won the Strasbourg title in 2020 partnering Demi Schuurs.
Saville wins her third career doubles title, and she also becomes a two-time Strasbourg champion, having taken the title in 2019 alongside Ellen Perez.