LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The unseeded Fiona Ferro started and finished magnificently in the final of the Ladies Open Lausanne to seize her maiden title, triumphing 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 over No.3 seed Alizé Cornet in one hour and 40 minutes.
"I'm very happy and very relieved," Ferro told the press afterwards. "It was a very tough match against a fellow French player and a friend - it was very difficult to stay calm and to stay in the moment. When you play a friend the emotions always take over."
The first all-French WTA Tour final since Aravane Rezai took the 2009 Bali Tournament of Champions title with a victory via retirement over Marion Bartoli found debutante finalist Ferro ending Cornet's Swiss winning streak at nine matches to become the ninth first-time champion this season. Cornet, last year's victor when the tournament was held in Gstaad, had been aiming to defend a title for the first time in her career, but was outdone by a superb display of power from her younger compatriot over the course of a seesaw contest.
There was an irony to Ferro's win in that, with coach Stéphane Huet on holiday, this is the first week that she has played a tournament by herself this year. "It's funny - he made jokes about it and told me he would get fired," Ferro laughed. "But I hope we can win a title together now."
Indeed, Ferro was flawless over the course of a 26-minute first set in which she never faced a break point and relentlessly attacked her opponent's service. Four forehand winners in Cornet's opening service game alone - three directly off the return - set the tone: the World No.98's form was simply untouchable for the first half-hour of the match, largely thanks to her easy power and bold shotmaking from that wing. Two more forehand winners paved the way to the double break, before a clinical love hold put the opening act to bed for the 22-year-old.
Ferro's aggression continued to be rewarded as the second set got under way. Hammering every second service return that came her way, the Lugano semifinalist seemed to have made a crucial breakthrough when she emerged victorious from a five-deuce tussle to capture the Cornet serve again for a 2-1 lead.
But the former World No.11 rarely goes down without a fight, and so it proved as the match took an abrupt about-turn. Finding a winning forehand of her own en route to breaking back immediately, Cornet was finally able to direct the ball away from Ferro's more dangerous wing on a more consistent basis. Peppering the Ferro backhand paid off handsomely as it began to break down, eventually taking her forehand with it as the second set fell away in a cascade of errors.
With two utterly contrasting sets played, the decider was always going to be an intriguing affair. An edgy start saw three consecutive breaks of serve as Cornet attempted to maintain her grip on the match while Ferro sought desperately to regain her rhythm. Appropriately enough, it was another forehand return winner from the latter that saw her wrest back control of the final. Nailing that shot for a 2-1 lead marked the end of Ferro's blip and the return of her first-set brilliance.
"In the first set, I played very relaxed while she was very tight," explained Ferro afterwards. "In the second she started to play better and to miss a little bit less - and me, I started to miss more and to put less intensity in my legs. In the third set I put a little bit more energy in, and I found my rhythm again."
Ferro's accuracy came back just as suddenly as it had left, and with her first title within striking distance she could once more do no wrong. A marvellous chase to retrieve a Cornet lob and fire a winning pass sealed another break of serve for 4-1, and two games later a backhand from the former World No.11 would drift wide to seal victory for Ferro on her first championship point.