Unseeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania beat Croatian teenager Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-4 in the Tashkent Open final on Saturday to take home her first WTA title.
Vekic, a 16-year-old qualifier who had won seven straight matches coming into the final, was looking to become the youngest winner on the WTA tour in six years. However, she struggled to keep up with Begu and her serve let her down.
Begu, who had beaten third-seeded Alize Cornet of France and eighth-seeded Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan on her way to the final, broke Vekic in the seventh game on her way to winning the first set. She broke again in the first game of the second set and jumped to a 4-2 lead, before Vekic earned her only break of the match to fight back and level at 4-4.
However, Begu responded immediately with another break before serving out the match.
“It feels great to win a title. I’ll take back sweet memories from Tashkent,” the 87th-ranked Begu said. “I’m glad I made a decision to play the event at the last moment, and will surely come back to defend my title.”
Begu credited her strong serving for the win. She won 74 percent of her first serve points compared to only 48 percent for Vekic.
“My service was what got me through,” she said “I was a little worried when Donna came back from 2-4 to level the scores at 4-4 in the second set, but I managed to break her immediately.”
Vekic said she would take plenty away from her first WTA final despite the loss. With her success in Tashkent, the 183rd-ranked Vekic is projected to move up nearly 50 spots.
“It was a disappointing performance,” she said. “I was ready for this final, but Irina played very well, she deserved to win today. I had my chances in the second set, but hurried a little on my serve and was broken.”
AFP, QUEBEC CITY, Canada
Unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens surprised third-seeded German Mona Barthel 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) Saturday to set up a clash with Lucie Hradecka in the WTA Bell Challenge final. Both finalists will be chasing a first career WTA title. Flipkens, who toppled top-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round for her third career win over a top-20 player, is in her first WTA final at the age of 26.
“I can’t believe I’m in the finals,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m going to give 100 percent and we’ll see what happens. This week is already perfect. I’m going to enjoy every moment of the final tomorrow.”
Germany’s Barthel, who won the title in Hobart in January as a qualifier, had ousted defending champion Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the quarter-finals, but had no luck against Flipkens in the two tiebreaks.
Eighth-seeded Czech Hradecka beat French teenager Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) on the indoor carpet at PEPS Laval University.
She will be trying to break through for a WTA crown after coming up empty in four previous finals appearances.
“I was quite young in my first one in Bad Gastein, and I lost a close match, but I told myself not to worry, that I could win my second one. But then I lost that one and two more since, so I hope I can win one finally,” Hradecka said.