MOSCOW, Russia -- 17-year-old lucky loser Olga Danilovic of Serbia pulled off a historic win on Sunday, defeating fellow 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova, a wild card from Russia, to claim her maiden WTA title at the Moscow River Cup, 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-4.
"There are no words to describe this kind of feeling," Danilovic told the media, after her victory. "Yesterday, I said, ‘This is the final, and this is my life, this is the moment that I live for.’ Being able to win, it’s even a better feeling, and I’m so happy for it."
Danilovic squandered a championship point in the second set, but recovered from a break down in the decider to become the first player born in the 2000s to win a WTA singles title, and the first lucky loser to ever hoist a WTA singles trophy. Danilovic is the youngest titlist at WTA level since Ana Konjuh won at Nottingham in 2015 (Konjuh was 18 days younger than Danilovic is now).
It was the first meeting between Danilovic and Potapova as professionals, although the Russian won both their singles encounters in the ITF junior ranks. But Danilovic came through in their first Tour-level match after nearly two-and-a-half hours of engrossing tennis.
Danilovic praised Potapova, calling her opponent "an amazing player. We had such an amazing final, and I think it was such big quality of the match, through all the match. We didn’t go up and down so much, we both had so many winners, we both had so many amazing points....She's just a complete, great player."
The left-handed Serbian sensation had another match where her high-octane game worked out well in the end, with 47 winners outpacing her 46 unforced errors. Potapova did well to extend the match as long as she could, but closed out the match with 32 unforced errors as opposed to only 18 winners.
Potapova jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the match, taking advantage of an error-prone Danilovic to garner the first break at 2-0. But Danilovic’s power game began to click after the Serb held for 4-2, saving two break points in the process. Big forehands by the left-hander helped Danilovic get back on serve at 4-3.
After a quick Danilovic hold punctuated by another forehand winner for 4-4, Potapova found herself in trouble on serve again, hitting three straight backhand errors to queue up a break for 5-4. But, serving for the set, Danilovic allowed Potapova back in, and, on break point, Potapova hit a drop shot which surprised Danilovic, letting the Russian break back for 5-5.
However, Danilovic had the final answers at the end of the set. She used a variety of powerful shots to break Potapova at love for 6-5, closing out that game with a return winner, and served out the set with no issues on her second chance of asking. Danilovic had 17 winners, including three aces, to only 10 unforced errors in the opening frame.
In the second set, both players were at their tiptop shape, neither facing a break point through 4-4, and the latter stage of the set contained a plethora of fireworks. Danilovic took the initial advantage in the set, blasting a backhand return winner to break serve at 4-4 on her third break point of the game, and serve for her maiden title.
At 5-4, a backhand by Danilovic forced an error from Potapova, giving the Serb a championship point. But Danilovic squandered it with a double fault, and Potapova surged in the game, amping up her returns to break back for 5-5.
Potapova was pumped as the players entered the tiebreak, and with new life after saving the match point, the Russian dominated in the breaker. The home nation heroine chased down everything Danilovic threw at her during the tiebreak, and quickly raced to quintuple set point at 6-1. An ace on her first chance pulled Potapova to a level match at one set apiece.
Danilovic regrouped to break for a 2-0 lead in the deciding set, pummelling a forehand return winner down the line on break point. But Potapova again made short work of a Danilovic drop shot in the next game, crushing a forehand winner crosscourt off of it to immediately break back for 2-1.
The Russian saved five break points in a marathon game to hold for 2-2, and that seemed to stun Danilovic, who dropped serve at love in the next game, putting Potapova up a break at 3-2. But Danilovic came off the changeover roaring, and broke back at love for 3-3 behind some vicious forehand winners.
Potapova once again led by a break at 4-3 after Danilovic plopped a forehand into the net while down break point. Potapova then had a 40-0 lead to hold for 5-3, but Danilovic escaped from that precarious position by continuing to press the Russian with big forehands, and the lucky loser reeled off five straight points to break back for 4-4.
An energized Danilovic swiftly held for 5-4, closing out the game with an ace. The Serb then garnered two more match points after a backhand winner down the line, but two misguided forehands put the game back at deuce. But Danilovic eventually reached a fourth match point, and finally closed out the match with an overhead winner at the end of a tight rally, then collapsing to the court with joy.