EASTBOURNE, July 1, 2018
The Nature Valley International welcomed one champion back to the winners’ circle, and bestowed another with their maiden tour title, on Saturday, Caroline Wozniacki beating Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6(5), Misha Zverev beating Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, and Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu claiming the women’s doubles title.
The women’s final pitched Sabalenka’s scintillating power against Wozniacki’s forceful counter-punching. But, while the unseeded Belarusian held a break against the world No.2 in both sets, forcing Wozniacki to save set points in the first, the Dane powered through to claim the 29thcareer title.
“It feels good, it’s been a good week,” said Wozniacki. “I played some good tennis. I’m happy to be here and to have won the last match as well.
“I have been playing well for a while now, so I don’t know. It just went well this week and I’m going to take it and not overthink things.”
Wozniacki last won the title in 2009, but despite the nine-year interim, said she never gave up hope of winning again at Devonshire Park.
“I have played well here, in the years in between, I have played a lot of semifinals and the final and it just feels like I have played well every time I have come here,” she said.
Sabalenka said she would take the positives from her first WTA Premier final appearance.
“I have to think about good matches before the final,” said Sabalenka. “It’s always tough to lose when you have some chance to, like set points or you lead in the tiebreak 5-2 and then you totally lose your game.
“But she’s a great player. Of course she’s the second (in the world). It’s good experience for me, and I hope next time, if I will have any chance like today, I’m going to keep it.”
Zverev takes maiden crown
In the Nature Valley International men’s final, fans were treated to a grass court master class as Zverev served and volleyed his way to his first ATP World Tour title.
The 30-year-old German may not have played a final since Metz eight years ago, but he never faltered against his Slovakian opponent. Zverev saved both break points he faced, converting two of his own to become the eighth first-time winner on the ATP tour this year. The final lasted one hour and 37 minutes.
“(It) felt amazing,” said Zverev. “It was definitely one of the emotional moments in my life. Beating Andy (Murray) in Australia was special, but there you win a match, you’re still in, the tournament’s not over. But here you’re the last one standing, pretty much, at the end of the week, and you have the trophy, so it’s definitely a unique feeling.”
Zverev said he had always dreamed of winning at least one title. “For many years I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t think I was going to do it, especially when I was ranked 1100,” he said. “But thank God I have my family and my brother and the whole team, and my wife is always telling me, no, you can achieve things, you can do big things. Just believe in yourself, work hard, and it’s going to pay off one day.
“Luckily I have them, and luckily I was able to listen to them, believe in myself, and just keep working and wait for it. Finally, I’m here. It’s incredible.”
Dabrowski/Xu clinch women’s doubles title
The women’s doubles finals wrapped up the action at the Nature Valley International after a week that welcomed more than 51,000 people through the gates at Devonshire Park, tournament No.4 seeds Dabrowski and Xu storming to a 6-3, 7-5 win against Irina-Camelia Begu and Mihaela Buzarnescu as the sun, which has been ever-present in Eastbourne this week, began to dip over centre court.