Milestone Moment For Kudermetova, Wins First WTA Singles Title

Veronika Kudermetova (photo: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The Volvo Car Open, the largest women’s-only tennis tournament in North America crowned its 2021 champion Sunday afternoon: Veronika Kudermetova. History was made in the low country as the No. 15 seed Kudermetova from Russia won her first WTA tour-level singles title, defeating Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 6-4, 6-2.

With so much to play for Sunday afternoon on the green clay of Althea Gibson Club Court at LTP-Daniel Island Tennis Center – a first-prize check of $68,570, 470 WTA rankings points plus a nice trophy and a Volvo automobile, not to mention the worldwide recognition that goes with winning a WTA 500-series tournament – Kudermetova and Kovinic gave everyone something to cheer about during their one-hour and 36-minute match. However, few expected Kudermetova to dominate from start to finish. It continued a trend she started from the first round through to the championship final. She didn’t drop any sets, and by the time she advanced to the title match, she was the only seed remaining after all of the top 10 seeds were gone by the end of the quarterfinals.

“Honestly, when I came, I didn’t think I could take the title here,” the 23-year-old Kudermetova said during her virtual press conference following her title triumph. “I had a lot of troubles in my head [from Miami].

“When I came [to Charleston], I said to myself, ‘Veronika, you  just need to work, that’s it, and we will see how you will play here.’ When I started to play matches, I just focused on tactics, work, and that’s it. And I think match by match, I started to play really well.

“All of the matches were really tough. It’s really tough matches for nerves, and the tennis part, but I’m really proud of myself that I can win my first title. I’m really happy.”

Of course, there’s the priceless moment for the 38th-ranked Kudermetova: winning her first career WTA tour-level title. Over the years, the Volvo Car Open has been won by a who’s who of women’s pro tennis, including current and future Hall of Famers Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams. She’s also the third Russian champion in Charleston, joining Nadia Petrova (2006) and Daria Kasatkina (2017).

After a one-year absence due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Volvo Car Open returned this year in a more intimate setting, Althea Gibson Club Court, with just a small number of spectators, while Volvo Stadium is being refurbished for next year’s event.

Playing in her second WTA 500 final of 2021, Kudermetova arrived at the Charleston final having not dropped a set in her first five matches, with victories against Desirae Krawczyk, Emma Navarro, Kurumi Nara, Sloane Stephens, and Paula Badosa. Add Kovinic to the list and now, after lifting her first champion’s trophy, she finished the tournament a clean sheet: 12 sets played, 12 sets won. The last player to win the Volvo Car Open without conceding a set was Serena Williams in 2012.

“It means a lot,” Kudermetova said. “It shows me that I can play really well, that I can beat good players, and if I play like this and keep working, I think I can be in the Top 10 or higher.”

Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Kovinic’s path to her third WTA final did not follow a straightforward line – but it garnered plenty of attention – even if it was not meant to be. That’s because she’s played two three-setters along the way. First, she was taken the distance against Leylah Fernandez in the second round, then came within two points of losing to No. 11 seed Yulia Putintseva in the quarterfinals. Against Kudermetova, Kovinic was facing her fourth straight seeded player, having already beaten No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova in the third round and No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur in the semifinals to go along with her win against Putintseva. However, unlike the first three successes, this time she just didn’t have enough weapon to beat Kudermetova.

“Veronika served really good; it was tough to break her,” Kovinic told Tennis Tour Talk, sounding upbeat in her virtual press conference despite losing the final. She gave props to Kudermetova. “She was more confident from the baseline than I was today. She played great the whole week.”

Kudermetova finished the title match with six aces, hit 22 winners and 19 unforced errors, and converted four of 12 break-point chances. By contrast, Kovinic hit four aces to six double faults and ended with 18 winners, 22 unforced errors and just one break of the Russian’s serve. Kudermetova outpointed Kovinic 70-60.

For the week, Kudermetova fired 31 aces in her six matches and now leads the WTA in that category with 130 on the year, three ahead of World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who was the tournament’s top seed.

Tennis TourTalk asked Kudermetova what she learned about herself from putting together a winning experience that culminated in her winning her first WTA title. “Of course, it’s an amazing week. I beat good players. I played really well,” she said. “I think I deserved to win this trophy. Most importantly, I began to trust myself. My confidence improved. I’m not focusing on the result, just my work and my fight.”

Melichar/Schuurs win third doubles title together

No. 1 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands won their second doubles title of 2021 and third overall. They defeated unseeded Marie Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka, both of the Czech Republic who were playing together for the first time, 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 18 minutes to win the Volvo Car Open doubles final.

Melichar and Schuurs hit 20 winners to 15 unforced errors and broke Bouzkova and Hradecka six times in 12 tries while outpointing their opponents 59-50.

Each of the winners received a brand-new Volvo automobile in addition to splitting $25,230 in prize money and earning 470 points.

News & noteworthy

Veronika Kudermetova became the fifth first-time title winner on the WTA tour this season, joining Clara Tauson (Lyon), Sara Sorribes Tormo (Guadalajara), Leylah Fernandez (Monterrey) and Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (Bogotá).

Danka Kovinic became the first unseeded player to reach the Charleston final since Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko met in 2017. She is the lowest-ranked player (No. 91) since an unranked Jennifer Capriati finished runner-up in 1990.