Brady Wins First WTA Title On Home Soil

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Jennifer Brady began the week bunched among a crowded field of American players that comprised half of the 32-player draw at the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics in Lexington, Ky. The WTA International event kicked off the tour’s relaunch on U.S. soil, and while much attention initially was focused on Serena and Venus Williams as well as Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff, Brady immediate began garnering attention by winning. She simply took care of business – and the pay off in the end was very rewarding: Brady won her first WTA title.

Round by round, the 49th-ranked Brady won – all in straight sets while spending the least amount of time on court of anyone in the tournament – and each win was more impressive than the previous one. Her confidence continued to build throughout the week; nothing seemed to phase her. By the end of the tournament, Brady’s serve had been broken only three times, thanks no less to an effective second serve that was lights out against every opponent. Oh, and add this to her list of accomplishments: she didn’t drop a set in Kentucky. Talk about a tournament to build upon on the eve of the Western & South Open/US Open New York doubleheader later this month.

It’s hard to fathom that Brady hadn’t won a WTA tour-level singles title before now, following her success as a collegiate star at UCLA and in winning four ITF titles early in her career. As she learned during Sunday’s singles final, nothing comes easy. Yet, in the end it was worth the time and effort it took for her to beat unseeded Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, known primarily for her past clay court successes, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 42 minutes. The final was played under a mostly sunny, 81-degree Fahrenheit sky on a bright blue hard court surface at the Top Seed Tennis Club.

As part of the new normal for pro tennis – at least in the U.S. – there were no fans allowed in to see final. What few people there were on the grounds – coaches, family members and a few lucky invited club members – sat in covered bleacher area in individual cushioned seats. Applause was muted but certainly welcomed. Everyone wore masks and maintained proper social distancing – even during the awards ceremony, where there was also hand sanitizer available for the players to use before they hoisted their prizes.

During the brief trophy presentation on court following her triumph, Brady briefly spoke while still wearing her mask. It was a victory message that was delivered very much from the heart. “There’s nothing better than playing at home in America. Every American loves to play at home,” she said. “So, especially to win the title on home soil is a great achievement for me and something I’m very happy about.”

It took five set points for the 25-year-old Harrisburg, Pa. native who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., to win the opening set against the 63rd-ranked Teichmann, from Biel, Switzerland. Then, once she broke her opponent in the first game of the second set, Brady began to focus her sights on the grand prize that awaited. She was not to be denied. Her big serve and powerful, attacking ground strokes were keys to victory.

“Before I walked onto the court, I knew I had to believe I could win, otherwise playing the match wouldn’t have even made sense,” said Brady. “I feel like I started the match slower on my serve.”

Indeed, Brady managed to only place 33 percent of her first serves in play during the first set, but it improved to 61 percent in the second set. However, when Brady did get her serve in, she won all but six of her service points (22 of 28 for 79 percent).

“In my past few matches this week, I’ve been serving really well; I didn’t look at the stats today but I know for a fact that it wasn’t as high as it has been,” she said. “That had something to do with nerves, but that 4-3 game when I held serve was something that really helped me for the rest of the match.”

In the aforementioned seventh game – which alone lasted nine minutes – Brady saved four break points, thanks to some heavy but effective ball striking. Then, she held her serve with a service winner that Teichmann could barely put her racquet on.

While Brady served for the set two games later, ahead 40-0, Teichmann fought valiantly and saved four set points – but all for naught. That’s because Brady succeeded on her fifth set-point opportunity that finally won the opener in 56 minutes, spanning 77 points. (They would play a total of 138 points by the end of the match.)

“Obviously, it was a very key moment, a very long game,” said Teichmann in recalling the ninth game of the first set. “She had her chances, I had my chances. It was a very important game. 

“My problem today was that I didn’t play well in the important moments, which I had done in every match. Today, I couldn’t do it. All the credit to Jen.”

Brady, who outpointed Teichmann 78-60, proved that she can hit from any position on the court. Now that she’s won her first WTA title, which will improve her ranking to No. 40 when the WTA Rankings are updated this week, Brady becomes the third American to lift a singles trophy this year, joining Serena Williams in Auckland and Sofia Kenin, who won both the Australian Open and Lyon.

Brady’s route to the final began with the first of four straight-set wins, over Heather Watson, continued with an upset of No. 6 seed Magda Linette, included a solid quarterfinal effort in beating Marie Bouzkova and was followed by a convincing semifinal victory over Gauff.

Meanwhile, Teichmann, who is the second-ranked Swiss woman behind the World No. 8 Belinda Bencic, was appearing in her first hard-court final in just her fourth tour-level main draw appearance in the United States. Before this week, she had never won consecutive matches in any of her three prior U.S. tournament appearances. She reached Sunday’s final after beating qualifier Anna Kalinskaya, No. 5 seed Yulia Putintseva, and a couple of Americans, CiCi Bellis and wild card Shelby Rogers. On Wednesday, Teichmann survived a 26-point penultimate game against Bellis, in which she finally prevailed on her seventh match point try. It gave her some added confidence for the remainder of the tournament.

“I beat some very good players with a good level of play,” said Teichmann looking back. Despite losing the final, her ranking shot up nine places to No. 54. “What I’m most proud of was my mental part of my game. All of the time there, every match, every game.”

When Brady arrived for her virtual Zoom press conference, about an hour after the match ended, she brought along her winner’s trophy to show off. The two seemed inseparable.

“It feels great to win my first title. There’s only one winner each week, so walking away with the trophy for the first time, at home in America, I’m really happy,” she said. With the trophy came a first-prize check for $25,000 plus 280 rankings points.

“I’ve always wanted to win a WTA title, and everything I ever imagined turned out to be reality.”

Passing shots

Jil Teichmann’s day was not finished after she received her runner-up trophy following the singles final. She returned to the Center Court “after suitable rest” to play in the doubles final teamed alongside Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic, who earlier in the week reached the singles quarterfinal round.

The good news was Teichmann became just the second player to appear in both a singles and doubles final in the same tournament this year along with Serena Williams in Auckland.

Unfortunately for her, the bad news was she and Bouzkova lost – but not without putting up a good fight to the end. No. 4 seeds Hayley Carter of the U.S. and Luisa Stefani from Brazil beat Teichmann and Bouzkova, 6-1, 7-5, in 75 minutes. The winning team earned $9,000 and 280 rankings points while the runners-up pocketed $5,040 and 180 points.