Qualifier Elise Mertens pulls off the first big surprise of 2017, conquering No.3 seed Monica Niculescu to win her first WTA title at the Hobart International.
WTA Staff

HOBART, Australia - Qualifier Elise Mertens made it through a tough week at the Hobart International to not only win her first title, but also crack the Top 100 for the first time in her young career, blitzing No.3 seed Monica Niculescu, 6-3, 6-1 in Saturday's championship match.

"It feels amazing," she said in her post-match press conference. "I have no words to describe it. I beat four Top 100 players this week; my level today was good, I had a plan, and it worked.

"I went 100% for my decision to stay here, and I'm really glad I did!"

Mertens trains at the Kim Clijsters Academy, and though she had to make it through qualifying just to earn a spot in the main draw, the Belgian played like a top seed for most of the week, stunning top seed Kiki Bertens before knocking out Niculescu in the final.

"I played a lot of different players; one played hard and flat, another sliced, so I think I was mentally strong this week to prepare for each match. My body has to recover, but I'm happy to have been able to play at this level."

The Romanian was making her eighth appearance in Hobart and certainly looked more comfortable to start, taking an early 2-0 lead; Mertens took control from there, however, and reeled off 12 of the next 14 games to clinch victory in an hour and 16 minutes.

"It was ok; I hadn't played her before, and she has a forehand slice, which no one has on the tour. I was glad to have a third game, because 3-0 might have made a big difference. But I stayed calm and went for it.]

"I didn't really expect to win today; I was trying to keep myself motivated because she's tough to play against. But I played really well today."

The 21-year-old is set to rocket up the rankings, no fewer than 40 spots to break the Top 100, putting herself in good position to be in the main draw for the upcoming French Open.