Alycia Parks has finished 2022 with a flourish and a 10-match winning streak, defeating Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the Open P2i Angers Arena Loire final to lift her second WTA 125 trophy in as many weeks.
The 21-year-old American claimed her first WTA 125 title in Andorra la Vella last week, cracking the Top 100 as a result, and continued her momentum to double her haul in neighbouring France.
"I think I was more tired today, but I wanted this title so I had to get into the match, and have the energy to go for it," Parks said, after her victory. "I'm going to take some rest before Australia. It's good to end the season with a title."
Guided by faith, Alycia Parks readies for a breakout 2023 season
Parks was plunged straight in at the deep end in Angers, drawing No.1 seed and last year's runner-up Zhang Shuai in the first round. But she passed that test with flying colours, needing only an hour to upset the Chinese player 6-2, 6-3 and notch a third Top 30 victory in the past three months.
The quarterfinals saw No.100-ranked Parks take out another notable name as she defeated former Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 7-6(3) in 79 minutes. The Czech player, on the comeback trail from wrist surgery this year, had herself been on an eight-match winning streak, but found few answers to Parks' power.
The last two rounds saw Parks showing real grit to come through two tight contests. She squeaked past wild card Jessika Ponchet 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 in a gripping 2-hour, 39-minute semifinal, holding her nerve and maintaining technical discipline in the face of the Frenchwoman's idiosyncratic flat hitting.
In the final, Parks' formidable serve was once again the bedrock of her win. She did not lose a point behind her first delivery in the first set, and only one in the third, and fired six aces in total.
But Parks was also able to elevate the rest of her game at key moments. She upped the ante on return to capture the decisive first-set break for 4-3, and delivered some superb scrambling and net play en route to serving it out.
Friedsam was playing her second consecutive WTA 125 final after coming runner-up to Caty McNally in Midland last month, and the German had scored an impressive semifinal victory of her own to take out No.2 seed Anhelina Kalinina 7-6(6), 6-3 in a high-quality clash. In the second set, she turned the tables on Parks, peaking with a terrific lob and fine volley to break for the first time in the final game.
But Friedsam was unable to sustain her momentum into the decider, conceding serve immediately in a flurry of forehand errors. Parks, imperious behind her delivery once again, retained the lead without facing another break point, sealing the title with a solid one-two punch. It was her third win in as many meetings with Friedsam, whom she also defeated 6-4, 7-6(4) in Ostrava qualifying two months ago.
Parks and Zhang take doubles title
Shortly after Parks won the singles title, she returned to court and captured the doubles title alongside the player she defeated in the first round of singles, Zhang Shuai.
No.1 seeds Parks and Zhang swept past Miriam Kolodziejova and Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles final. Parks and Zhang fended off all three of the break points they faced on Sunday, toppling the Czech pair in just 61 minutes.
Just as she has in singles, Parks has claimed multiple WTA 125 doubles titles this winter. She also won the title at WTA 125 Midland in November partnering Asia Muhammad.
Zhang has also won her second career WTA 125 doubles title, with her first coming back in 2013 in Ningbo. Between these two WTA 125 titles, Zhang has established herself as one of the top doubles players on tour, winning two Grand Slam titles with Samantha Stosur. She peaked at World No.2 in the WTA doubles rankings earlier this year.
What a Hat trick this girl in last 2 weeks ! @ASICSTennis pic.twitter.com/UzMdgGhSTY— Shuai Zhang (@zhangshuai121) December 11, 2022
Ponchet thrills the crowd; Tauson, Kenin continue comebacks
A week ago in Andorra la Vella, Ponchet had lost the longest match of the WTA 125 season 7-6(4), 6-7(7), 7-6(6) in her opener to Katrina Scott. One week on, 26-year-old found herself embroiled in a near-identical first-round epic against Katarina Zavatska -- but came out on top this time 7-5, 6-7(2), 7-6(3) after 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Ponchet held triple match point for the first time at 5-4 in the second set on Zavatska's serve, but the Ukrainian seemed consistently able to find her best tennis with her back to the wall and forced a decider. Ponchet held another three match points serving at 6-5 in the third set, and once again Zavatska escaped -- pulling off a wild reflex lob to fend off one of them. Nonetheless, Ponchet remained calm to take control of the deciding tiebreak.
The World No.172 took her momentum all the way into her first WTA 125 semifinal, following her defeat of Zavatska with straight-sets wins over qualifier Greet Minnen and Clara Burel.
Elsewhere, a host of notable players were on the comeback trail. As well as Vondrousova, Clara Tauson -- whose season has been marred by a back injury -- also reached the last eight. The 19-year-old Dane routed wild card Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-1 in the first round, ending the former Wimbledon finalist's own comeback hopes in 71 minutes. Tauson backed that up with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 defeat of Cluj-Napoca champion Anna Blinkova in the second round before falling 7-6(3), 6-4 to Kalinina.
Former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin's ranking has fallen to No.240 after an ankle injury sidelined her for five months this year, but the American wild card was able to triumph in a popcorn opener 6-4, 6-2 over Dayana Yastremska. However, Kalinina was too solid for her in the next round, easing past Kenin 6-4, 6-4.
Elsewhere, Karolina Muchova's comeback was ended in the first round by Burel 2-6, 7-6(1) 6-3. The former Australian Open semifinalist has been beset by numerous injuries throughout her career, including ankle and wrist issues this year, and missed a match point at 5-4 in the second set against the Frenchwoman.
No.591-ranked Emeline Dartron was the surprise package of the tournament. The 22-year-old French qualifier upset No.5 seed Tamara Korpatsch 6-4, 6-4 in the second round to post her first Top 100 victory and maiden WTA 125 quarterfinal. Another qualifier, No.224-ranked Magali Kempen, also scored a first Top 100 win after upsetting No.3 seed Alison Van Uytvanck 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in an all-Belgian opener.