Brady Is Last American Standing At Top Seed Open

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics, a WTA International event that relaunched the tour on U.S. soil, began play on Monday with four former Grand Slam champions – all drawn in the top quarter – and 16 Americans total in the 32-player draw. By the weekend, all of the past major titlists – including top-seeded Serena Williams, her older sister Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens – as well as each of the eight seeds were all gone from the Top Seed Tennis Club in Lexington, Ky.

The final four who remained in Kentucky were all unseeded players representing a variety of playing styles – and they all enjoyed great runs to the semifinals. Now, following Saturday’s semifinal action, there’s one American left standing in the draw: 49th-ranked Jennifer Brady – the highest-ranked of the last four – who convincingly beat a more well-known American, 53rd-ranked Coco Gauff, to reach her first WTA tour-level final.

In just 70 minutes, Brady dominated all facets of her game en route to a 6-2, 6-4 triumph against the heralded 16-year-old Gauff, who reached the semifinal round with a comeback win over No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. The 25-year-old Brady from Harrisburg, Pa. who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., took control of her semifinal match early against Gauff and never played from behind. In the second set, it all seemed to come together for Brady. She went 14-for-14 in winning all of her first-serve points and lost just four points in five service games.

“I’ve been working really hard since the beginning of the year,” Brady said via her Zoom video news conference after her victory. “I’ve been putting in a lot of hours on the practice courts and in the gym, and hopefully, everything just falls into place.”

Despite losing, Gauff had nothing but praise for Brady. After the match, she said: “Jenny just played a great match, and I can take away a lot from this week in general. I couldn’t have asked for a better week back. I feel like today was the best that I was striking my forehand all week, so that’s something I can take away from this.”

Gauff gave Brady props for her serve, which may have been the difference between winning and losing.

“Her serve is great. She hits her targets really well,” said Gauff, who was making her first semifinal appearance in just her third tournament of the year. “In particular today, she was hitting both her serves pretty well. I was just trying to get them back in the court, but it didn’t work out. She’s definitely Top 5 on my list, at least of people I’ve played so far.”

Brady, who is yet to lose a set in any of her four matches, fired eight aces, won points on all but four of her first serves for an 85-percent efficiency rate, and was broken just once. She broke Gauff’s serve four times in eight attempts and outscored the teenager 59-41 to reach Sunday’s final against No. 63 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland. The unseeded Teichmann, who also has yet to drop a set, advanced earlier with a commanding 6-3 6-2 victory over 116th-ranked American wild card Shelby Rogers.

Rogers, a Charleston, S.C. native who was playing in her first semifinal since 2016, was unable to sustain the momentum that came from knocking off Serena Williams on Friday afternoon. Although she was back with a vengeance this week – happy and finally healthy after a rash of injury setbacks – and had strung together three good wins that lowered her inside the Top 100, she was no match for Teichmann, who won 80 percent of her first-serve points, controlled many of the longer rallies and was broken just twice. By contrast, she broke Rogers five times in 10 opportunities. The third left-handed player to face Rogers this week – following Misaki Doi and Leylah Fernandez – Teichmann figured out how to problem solve and beat Rogers, whom she outscored 62-42 during their one hour and 10-minute match.

“I have much respect for Shelby, and she won a great match (Friday) against Serena,” said the affable Teichmann during her Zoom video press conference. “I also practiced with her a few days ago, so I knew she was in good shape. I went into the match really focused and I’m really feeling confident as well. 

“I actually just focused on my side, to do my game. I guess she was a bit tired after (Friday’s) match – but who isn’t, after such a long break?”

Looking ahead, Brady, a former collegiate champion at UCLA, will be aiming to win her first WTA singles title since turning pro when she faces Teichmann. “Reaching a final at any tournament, I think, is a great opportunity,” she said. I’ve given myself the best opportunity, and hopefully, I come out and play well (Sunday).”

Meanwhile, Teichmann, 23, from Biel, Switzerland, who has won two titles on clay – last year in Prague and Palermo – is going after her first hard-court crown. This year, with the Western & Southern Open and US Open tournaments looming large – both on hard courts – Teichmann has forsaken her favorite surface of clay to arrive early in the U.S. in search of rankings points. If she wins the Top Seed Open singles title, it will be worth 280 points.

“Everyone thinks I’m just a clay court player,” said Teichmann shortly before heading back to the court for her doubles semifinal. It’s something she’s echoed to reporters throughout the week. “I think I’ve proven that it’s not only this way. 

“I’ve been feeling great on hard courts since the beginning of the year, and I was starting to have results. I was on the right way. But all this coronavirus pandemic made it stop, and same for everyone. 

“My goal was just to get back into this level and show it again.”

Teichmann will be looking to sweep both finals today. That’s because she and her Czech doubles partner Marie Bouzkova, who was alive in singles until being eliminated by Brady in the quarterfinals, knocked off the No. 1 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the U.S., 6-2, 3-6, 10-4, on Saturday to reach the Sunday final against No. 4 seeds Hayley Carter of the U.S. and Luisa Stefani of Brazil. So, Teichmann definitely will have a full day to look ahead to.

Passing shots

• Sunday’s championship matches begin at 11 a.m. Eastern Time (5 p.m. CEST), broadcast on Tennis Channel, with the singles final between Jennifer Brady and Jil Teichmann, followed by the doubles final after suitable rest as Teichmann and Marie Bouzkova will take on Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani.

• Jennifer Brady and Jil Teichmann have split two previous meetings, both which took place last year. First, Brady won a three-set qualifying draw match at the Western & Southern Open, then Teichmann beat Brady at a WTA 125K event in Limoges, France. “I think we know each other’s game styles very well and I think it will be a good match,” said Brady. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m going to show up, give my best and see what happens. It’s very ideal for me to get a lot of matches before the US Open. I’m really pleased with the week so far.”

• Jennifer Brady is aiming to becoming the third U.S. woman to win a WTA singles title this year. If successful, she would join Serena Williams (Auckland) and Sofia Kenin (Australian Open and Lyon).