In a clash of unseeded players in the Nordea Open final, Jang Su-Jeong lifted her first WTA 125 trophy with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Rebeka Masarova in 2 hours and 16 minutes.
The victory completes a dominant week for No.155-ranked Jang, who dropped no sets and only 18 games en route to the final. Her title run included her first two Top 100 wins since 2017, over No.3 seed Clara Burel 6-2, 6-1 in the first round and No.5 seed Panna Udvardy 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
Jang had previously been a WTA 125 runner-up at Honolulu 2017, where she scored a win over Amanda Anisimova before falling 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Zhang Shuai in the final. Five years later, her victory in Sweden marks the biggest tournament won by a South Korean woman since Lee Duk-Hee won the Fort Myers WTA title in 1982.
The first set of the final found Jang playing too passively, pushed back by Masarova's formidable serve and superior power. But as the match went on, she blended excellent footspeed and began to find ways to dictate play with her forehand.
The 27-year-old's breakthrough came when she broke Masarova for the first time for 5-3 in the second set after a three-deuce tussle. Jang took her momentum into a confident decider, finding a series of big forehands to break the Spaniard twice for a 3-0 lead. She maintained this lead to the end, converting her first match point as Masarova sent a forehand long.
Jang and Masarova have now played three times in the past 16 months, all in very different circumstances. In March 2021, as both players began to resume their careers following the Covid shutdown, they met in the first round of W15 tournament in Antalya. Both were ranked outside the Top 300, and Masarova won 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-3.
They next met in the final round of Australian Open qualifying this January, with Jang triumphing 6-2, 6-3 to make her Grand Slam main draw debut. This week in Bastad, both were bidding to win their biggest career title.
Prior to 2021, none of Jang's 20 ITF World Tour finals had come on clay; indeed, she had only played a handful of tournaments on the surface. But she returned from the Covid shutdown on clay last year, and has thrived, winning four tournaments on it so far.
"I didn't like the clay before, but since last year I started to like it," Jang said afterwards. "Before, the movement was very difficult for me, but now I feel I can run every ball down. Maybe I'm playing my best tennis right now."
Masarova, the 2016 Roland Garros girls' champion, enjoyed the best week of her season so far. The No.146-ranked 22-year-old upset No.2 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals for her sixth career Top 100 win.
Tomova, Davis reach semifinals
The unseeded Viktoriya Tomova backed up a strong grass-court season to reach the last four in Bastad. The No.112-ranked Bulgarian had reached her first WTA 500 quarterfinal in Eastbourne, and then the second round of Wimbledon. She scored wins over Ipek Oz and Mihaela Buzarnescu to reach her biggest semifinal since Belgrade last May, before falling 6-2, 6-3 to Jang.
No.6 seed Lauren Davis rounded out the final four, taking out the last home hope, No.4 seed Rebecca Peterson, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. However, Masarova was able to edge the American out 7-6(3), 7-5.
Doi, Peterson take doubles title
Former singles champion Misaki Doi, who won the title in 2019, was unable to replicate that form this year, crashing out 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to Mirjam Bjorklund in the first round. However, the Japanese player teamed up with another Swede, Peterson, to lift the doubles trophy. They did not drop a set en route to a final clash with Buzarnescu and Irina Khromacheva, which they won via walkover after a knee injury forced Buzarnescu to withdraw.
Both Doi and Peterson are former WTA doubles champions: Doi won Istanbul 2014 with Elina Svitolina and Hiroshima 2019 with Nao Hibino, while Peterson was the 2015 Rio de Janeiro titlist alongside Ysaline Bonaventure. The pair had also contested the 2018 Newport Beach 125 final against each other, with Doi and Jil Teichmann getting the better of Peterson and Jamie Loeb 7-6(4), 1-6, [10-8].