No.7 seed Caty McNally continued her recent surge in form to lift her first WTA 125 trophy at the Dow Tennis Classic, defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-3, 6-2 in a 1-hour, 20-minute final.
McNally, 20, recaptured a title she had previously won at the age of 18. She was the 2019 champion in Midland, beating Jessica Pegula in the final, when the tournament was an ITF W100 event.
The No.111-ranked American has now won 15 of her 18 matches since the US Open, including a run to her first WTA 500 quarterfinal in Ostrava -- a series of results that will enable her to make her Top 100 debut on Monday. McNally previously reached No.105 in September 2019, but in the following years her doubles success outpaced her singles progress. Last year, McNally reached her first major doubles final at the US Open alongside Coco Gauff, but her singles ranking had fallen as low as No.229 this June.
After going down an early break in the final, McNally's sumptuous net skills were on full display as she overwhelmed Friedsam from the forecourt. A superbly weighted stab volley gave her the break for 5-3 in the first set; an exquisite dropshot-pass combination put her up a 5-2 double break in the second. Overall, McNally landed 79% of her first serves, and won 71% of the points behind it.
McNally dropped just one set over the course of the week, needing to come from 3-0 down in the third set to beat wild card Sofia Kenin 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. She did not drop more than five games in any of her four other matches, including a 6-3, 6-1 first-round win over sometime doubles partner Alycia Parks.
Former World No.45 Friedsam had also sunk out of the Top 200 earlier this year, but a semifinal run in Portoroz two months ago -- where the German upset former US Open champion Emma Raducanu -- signalled her own resurgence. This week Friedsam, 28, did not drop a set en route to the final, including a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of No.5 seed Camila Osorio in the quarterfinals and a 6-4, 6-2 win over Ann Li in the semifinals.
A two-time runner-up at tour level, this was also Friedsam's third WTA 125 final -- but she could not add to Suzhou 2014, her sole title at this level.
Kenin continues comeback, takes out defending champion Brengle
Former Australian Open champion Kenin has compiled a meagre 4-13 record at tour level over the course of an injury-struck 2022, and she has fallen to No.253 in the rankings from a high of No.4. But the American's form has taken an uptick after dropping down a level in the past fortnight. Kenin was a semifinalist in the Tyler ITF W80 last week, and backed that up in Midland by upsetting No.2 seed and defending champion Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 in the second round.
Nao Hibino was another former Top 100 player who continued to turn her season around in Midland. The former World No.56 scored her second Top 30 win of the year with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 first-round upset of No.1 seed Zhang Shuai, and backed it up by ousting last year's runner-up Robin Anderson 7-6(2), 6-3 in the second round.
Wild card Peyton Stearns, 21, continued to make waves in her rookie season by reaching her first WTA 125 semifinal. The University of Texas alumna chose to turn pro this year, making her Grand Slam debut at the US Open. Since then, Stearns has compiled a 15-3 record, including back-to-back ITF W25 titles in Austin and Florence. This week, she defeated Ashlyn Krueger 6-2, 6-3 in the second round, followed by qualifier Katherine Sebov 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Former World No.44 Ann Li, seeking a return to the Top 100, had to battle the hardest for her spot in the last four. Ranked No.147, Li saved one match point in the first round before taking out No.6 seed Varvara Gracheva 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, then overturned a 5-1 third-set deficit to advance past Magdalena Frech 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(5) in the second round. Li eked past Hibino 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals before falling 6-4, 6-2 to Friedsam.
Muhammad, Parks capture doubles title
No.1 seeds Asia Muhammad and Alycia Parks stormed to the title with a 6-3, 6-2 final defeat of Friedsam and Nadiia Kichenok. Playing for the first time as a team, both Americans were coming off tour-level finals in their most recent tournament.
Muhammad, a seven-time WTA doubles champion, had been runner-up in Seoul six weeks ago alongside Sabrina Santamaria. Parks extended her doubles winning streak to eight, adding the Midland title to the Ostrava trophy she collected four weeks ago with McNally.