Big-Time Victory For Tauson, Wins First WTA Title

Clara Tauson (photo: Alexandre Hergott/Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon)

LYON/WASHINGTON, March 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s final of the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon matched a pair of qualifiers, Denark’s Clara Tauson and Viktorija Golubic from Switzerland, one a walking Wikipedia of tennis knowledge, the other friendly with Swiss maestro Roger Federer. One came to France in search of winning her first WTA tour-level title, the other hadn’t won a WTA crown since 2016 and was hungry to garner another. While there was only one champion’s trophy awarded, both played worthy of winning it.

On this late winter day in Lyon, France’s third-largest city, it was Tauson’s moment to shine. The 18-year-old Danish teenager from Copenhagen showed she’s ready to win often. Although she needed six championship points to complete her dream week, she finally did it. The 139th-ranked Tauson won her first WTA title with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over No. 130 Golubic in an hour and a half. It improved her 2021 win-loss record in all competitions to 19-3.

“It’s the best day of my life, but I haven’t really processed it yet,” Tauson admitted during her virtual press conference afterward with English-language and Danish media. “Of course, it’s one of the big ones, but I try to take every tournament just the same. If it’s a W25 or a WTA, it doesn’t really matter. With this win, I’m going to have a lot more opportunities in playing WTA.” Well spoken coming from someone who won the Danish junior championship at age 13 and made her Fed Cup debut for Denmark at age 14 1/2.

Except for trailing 0-2 at the start, broken in her very first service game of the match, Tauson played from the advantage of being ahead against the more-experienced 28-year-old Zürich native Golubic. By the time she finally won, Tauson broke out a big, toothy grin as she walked to the net to congratulate Golubic. Then, after briefly toweling off, she sprinted across the court to share a hug with her coach Olivier Jeunehomme.

“I think [Viktorija] played a lot different than the girls I’ve played this week,” Tauson told Tennis TourTalk when asked to describe the difference between winning and losing the final. “I played a lot of hard hitters. As you could see, she slices a lot, hits drop shots. I had to think about where to play the ball because she was really on it if I didn’t play it the right way.

“Every time I had a short ball, she was there. I had to finish it every time myself, which is hard mentally and physically. She always gave me one more shot to play – and with my game, that’s quite annoying. I think I played really solid at the right moments.”

Tauson’s big-time victory in Lyon, the second time she’s beaten Golubic in 2021 following her January triumph in an ITF W25 final in Fujairah, U.A.E, means she will make her Top 100 debut when the WTA Rankings are updated on Monday. She’s also 23,548 euros and 280 WTA Rankings points richer for winning Lyon.

When asked by Tennis TourTalk about her ranking accomplishment, Tauson smiled at the thought, and with a bit of laughter in her voice said: “I haven’t really thought too much about my ranking this week. I’m going to believe it when I see it, that I’m Top 100. It’s something I’ve worked toward for many years now. If I am in the Top 100 when the rankings are updated, of course, it’s quite an accomplishment for me – it’s what I work on. I’m going to take it one day at a time, I think, and just celebrate today and then, it’s a new day tomorrow.”

In reaching the final at Halle Tony Garnier, Tauson’s wins over No. 33 Ekaterina Alexandrova, No. 81 Camila Giorgi and No. 73 Paula Badosa this week in Lyon were her third, fourth and fifth Top 100 wins of her career to go along with a couple of 2020 wins against Shelby Rogers in an ITF W80 event and Jennifer Brady at Roland Garros. Meanwhile, Golubic arrived at the final bidding for her 11th win in a row after exceeding her previous longest streak of eight. By the time it ended, Tauson had succeeded in winning all seven of her matches. She captured 14 of 14 sets, and dropped just 27 games in the main draw.

The 48-minute opening set was characterized by each player’s inability to consistently hold their serve. There was a total of seven service breaks between the finalists. The Danish teenager saw leads of 4-2 and 5-3 evaporate. As Tauson served for the set at 5-3, Golubic converted her third break-point opportunity of the game to break, only to then be forced to save three set points in her next service game. However, on the fourth set point, Tauson finally put it away on the eighth point of the game when Golubic hit a one-fisted backhand wide to win the set.

Then, Tauson broke Golubic to go ahead 2-0 and consolidated the break with a hold at love for a commanding 3-0 advantage, needing to win just three more games. She immediately went to work and broke Golubic, again, for the sixth time to increase her lead to 4-0, and held for 5-0 – just a game away from game, set, match and title. However, the Swiss No. 4 wasn’t ready to give up. During the ensuing 14-point sixth game, Golubic saved four championship points to hold her serve, which forced Tauson to serve out the victory. Then, she saved a fifth championship point to gain deuce and earned a couple of break points for her trouble. Finally, on Tauson’s sixth championship-point opportunity, she won when Golubic hit a wide forehand return that abruptly ended a four-shot rally.

“She didn’t give me any easy points,” Tauson admitted. “I think I played aggressive – I played my game – even though I missed a few balls. I didn’t really think too much about winning or losing. I just thought about playing my game and just playing one point at a time. This helped a lot.”

Golubic kept her spirts up despite the setback in the final. “It was a good week for me, a good run. She was very solid in the final. I’m disappointed I couldn’t do more, but it was still a great tournament for me,” she said.

When Golubic was asked to describe the difference between winning and losing, she said: “I think she was really hitting the lines big. This is where she put more pressure on me than I was able to handle. She was playing big and not missing much.”

Meanwhile, feeling a bit giddy as she continued to field questions from reporters, Tauson was asked to describe her overall feelings as she sat with her newest trophy beside her. She replied, “Definitely happy. I’m just a calm person. If I win a match, I win a match. Of course, it’s different since I [just] won a WTA trophy.

“I’m still processing now. I was not calm in the locker room when I called my friends. They were very happy for me. My sister shed a little tear. I’ve processed it with my parents and my friends. I’m just a calm person.”

When Tauson was asked if the special occasion of winning her first title came easier than expected – after all the Danish teenager won it in just her eighth main-draw match – she said: “I think when I play like this, like I’ve played all week, I can beat some really good players. Of course, it’s not every week that I play like these seven matches in a row. I think this week I worked so hard for this. When I came here, I was a qualifier and I tried to win as many matches as I could. I didn’t expect this, of course. I’m very happy and looking forward to the next tournament.”

Kuzmova/Rus win doubles title

No. 1 seeds Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia and Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands won the Lyon doubles title with a 3-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over unseeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Olga Danilovic of Serbia. In winning the title, Kuzmova and Rus lost just one set in their four matches. For Rus, it was her eighth match win and first title of the year, while Kuzmova improved to 10-2 and was appearing in her second final of the season.

News & noteworthy

• The last time two qualifiers met in a WTA final was at the Japan Women’s Open in Tokyo in 2017 between Zarina Diyas and Miya Kato.

• Last year, no qualifiers advanced beyond the second round at Lyon.

• Clara Tauson went 14 for 14 in sets won in Lyon. With her title victory, she’s won 12 straight matches. The last set she lost was against Simona Waltert of Switzerland in the final of the ITF W25 in Altenkirchen, Germany, won by Tauson, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.