PRAGUE, May 4, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
The J & T Banka Prague Open came down to a battle among two first-time finalists. The first meeting between 106th-ranked wild card Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic and qualifier Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, ranked 146th, was the second WTA International final this year to feature two players chasing after their first tour-level title. It’s too bad there could be only one winner because both Muchova and Teichmann put on an entertaining match on the red clay of Centre Court at TK Sparta Praha despite the chilly, damp conditions Saturday afternoon.
When the last point ended after two hours and 44 minutes of competition, it was Teichmann, who was seen lying flat on her back for a brief moment, celebrating what she had just accomplished before 2,500 appreciative – albeit bundled up – fans. Teichmann beat Muchova, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4. She had just won eight matches in eight days as a qualifier to win her first WTA title in Prague.
“I’m just speechless, honestly,” said Teichmann during an on-court interview before the trophy ceremony. “I just fought and fought. It was a great battle and I’m just relieved that it’s done.”
There was little margin for error between the two young competitors – 22-year-old Muchova and Teichmann, just 21 and a former junior World No. 3. Only six points separated them in the end – 109 for Teichmann and 103 for Muchova. Each broke the other’s serve six times. Muchova score two more points on her service than Teichmann, but the left-handed Teichmann won eight more on returns.
After Teichmann and Muchova split the first two sets, with Teichmann winning the opener in a closely-contested tie break and Muchova the middle on her third set-point opportunity after saving a break point, it came down to a battle of who could control their nerves best in the final set. Muchova was up a break at 2-0 and it looked promising for her. However, in the end, it was Teichmann, who twice rallied from a break down and broke Muchova’s serve three times during the 43-minute third set, including the final game of the match, to secure the biggest triumph of her career. The victory will improve Teichmann’s ranking 58 spots to No. 88 when the new WTA Rankings are released on Monday. Muchova will move up to No. 75.
— WTA (@WTA) 4. Mai 2019
Teichmann was asked by an on-court interviewer how she felt emotionally. The Swiss said, “I’m exhausted, but Kaja played a great match as well. I knew it was going to be a battle, but in the end, one has to win.”
Teichmann became the first qualifier to hoist the trophy in Prague, and she became the 20th different WTA champion in 21 events this season. Only Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, last year’s Prague champion, is a repeat winner so far this season.
Prior to this week, Muchova and Teichmann mustered just one tour-level quarterfinal showing between them – Muchova’s last-eight run at Doha in February. Otherwise, this week found both exploring new-chartered territory – it took Teichmann stringing together eight consecutive victories to win it all, including three in qualifying just to make it to the main draw – but it’s been fun for both of them. Among Teichmann’s eight wins, she beat former World No. 2 and two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in a three-set, second-round comeback and reached the final with a 6-3, 6–0 triumph over No. 9 seed Barbora Strycova. Just two of her eight matches – against Kuznetsova and Muchova – went three sets.
• Czech great Lucie Safarova, who will retire at the French Open later this month and earlier this week played for the final time in Prague, was honored during a pre-final ceremony on Centre Court. She also conducted the coin toss before the final between Karolina Muchova and Jil Teichmann.
• Karolina Muchova and Jil Teichmann came in as the first players ranked outside the Top 100 to play in the Prague final, and Teichmann was the third qualifier to reach the championship match. Thanks to Muchova’s semifinal win over Bernarda Pera on Friday, it ensured at least one Czech finalist had reached the last two every year since the tournament returned to the WTA schedule in 2015, and Muchova was trying to become the fourth Czech player in five years to win the Prague Open title.
• Not since last July, when Olga Danilovic beat Anastasia Potapova at the Moscow River Cup and Wang Qiang defeated Zheng Saisai in Nanchang during the same week had their been a final between maiden finalists until Karolina Muchova faced Jil Teichmann on Saturday.