Veronika Kudermetova returned to the winner’s circle on the Hologic WTA Tour for the first time in two-and-a-half years, taking home the Toray Pan Pacific Open title with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Jessica Pegula in Sunday’s final.
The No.8 seed Kudermetova took out No.2 Pegula in 1 hour and 24 minutes to capture her second career title. Both of Kudermetova’s titles have been at WTA 500 events, with her previous trophy coming on the green clay of Charleston in April of 2021.
Back on top: Similarly to last week’s Guadalajara champion Maria Sakkari, Kudermetova’s triumph marks a long-awaited end to a recent losing streak in finals. Kudermetova had lost four straight finals since her Charleston title, including at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in June of this year.
World No.19 Kudermetova clinched victory on Sunday by maintaining an undefeated record against World No.4 Pegula. In their lone previous encounter, Kudermetova had beaten Pegula on clay in the Madrid quarterfinals this spring.
"Jessica is a great player, she’s a great fighter, and I prepared myself for the fight," Kudermetova said after her win. "When it was 5-5 in the first set, I just said to myself, ‘Veronika, you just need to fight, you just need to do everything that you can,' and I did."
Beating the best: The former World No.9 Kudermetova continues to bring her best against the highest-ranked players -- she has now won five of her last six matches against Top 10 opponents.
However, coming into Tokyo, Kudermetova had won only three matches in her last six events. But a quarterfinal win over World No.2 Iga Swiatek -- her first victory over Swiatek in five tries and tied for her career-best win by opponent ranking -- showed that Kudermetova was ready for a change in fortunes this week.
Indeed, the turnaround came to pass, as Kudermetova backed up that win with a grueling 3-hour and 25-minute semifinal triumph over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before earning her second Top 5 win of the week over Pegula.
"I’m really happy because before, it was not an easy time for me, it was really tough moments," Kudermetova said. "Now I’m really happy and I have a lot of motivation for the next weeks."
Match moments: Kudermetova pulled off a 10-point winning streak during her 3-0 start to the final, where her powerful groundstrokes held sway. Pegula clawed back on serve, but down 6-5, the American hit back-to-back double faults to cede the opening set to Kudermetova.
Crunching returns by Kudermetova helped her race through the second set, in which she converted both of her break points. Kudermetova finished the match with 17 winners to Pegula's seven.
Doubles final comeback: The Tokyo doubles final was contested on Saturday, with Ulrikke Eikeri and Ingrid Neel saving two championship points during their 3-6, 7-5, [10-5] victory over homeland hopes Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya.
Hozumi and Ninomiya were a point away from the title at 5-4 in the second set, but Eikeri and Neel escaped that game, then won the next two games as well to eke out the second set.
After a close start to the decisive match-tiebreak, Eikeri of Norway and Estonia's Neel went on a tear at the end of it. Eikeri and Neel won the final four points in their 1-hour and 43-minute win over the Japanese duo to capture the title.
It is the third career WTA doubles title for both Eikeri and Neel, and their second as a team, following their win earlier this year on the grass courts of Nottingham. Neel is an undefeated 3-0 in WTA doubles finals thus far in her career.