Vekic Wins First Title In Over Four Years At Courmayeur

Donna Vekic (photo: Francesco Peluso/Courmayeur Ladies Open)

COURMAYEUR/WASHINGTON, November 1, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Looking back, Donna Vekic will always remember her third career WTA title because her persistence and hard work paid off handsomely – and it made for a great way for her to end the season. It came before a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered in Courmayeur, Italy, at the foot of Mont Blanc in the Italy Alps region, at the inaugural Courmayeur Ladies Open.

On Sunday evening, the unseeded Vekic defeated No. 5 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark, 7-6 (3), 6-2, in an hour and 46 minutes, by pounding out 11 aces, hitting 39 winners and converting five of 10 break-point opportunities. She outpointed the 18-year-old Danish teenager, who was attempting to win her third WTA tour-level trophy of the season, 82-68, and clinched the title victory on her first match-point try with a service winner.

Coming back from knee surgery in February to win her first title in more than four years, the former World No. 19 Vekic, who entered the WTA 250 indoor event in Courmayeur ranked 97th after dropping out of the Top 100 for the first time since 2016, truly appreciated the moment of her victory. She did not drop a set all week – going an unblemished 10 for 10 in her five triumphs – and against Tauson, the 25-year-old Croatian only committed 13 unforced errors. Tauson’s numbers paled by comparison. She hit 23 winners, made 17 unforced errors and converted three of seven break points.

Winning the Courmayeur title capped a nearly flawless week for Vekic – it put a big smile on her face after she won – and she received heartfelt hugs from all of her team members afterward, who were sitting courtside inside the quaint Forum Sports Center.

Vekic had won only twice in six previously WTA title matches going all the way back to 2012. Her first came at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2014 and the second was at Nottingham, England in 2017. Coming into this week, she had competed in 86 WTA events after winning the Nottingham crown.

Meanwhile, Tauson in her rookie season on Tour had won titles indoors in Lyon, France and Luxembourg. She was on an eight-match finals winning streak at all levels (WTA tour, WTA 125 and ITF) and hadn’t lost a final since 2019 at Darmstadt, Germany in an ITF W25 event. However, after enduring a tough semifinal win over No. 3 seed Liudmilla Samsonova, in which she fought off five match points to win in three sets, Tauson was admittedly exhausted, both mentally and physically, and needed a medical timeout after the first set to be able to continue. On this day, however, it was Vekic’s moment to shine. She played determined all week in order to be able to finish her season on a high note.

“To my family, who is at home, and my fans, who are not here, thank you for all of your support,” Vekic said during the trophy ceremony. “It’s been a very tough year for me. I had surgery. You’ve supported me from the toughest moments to this day. This trophy is for all of you.”

Kontaveit wins fourth title of season at Cluj-Napoca

Anett Kontaveit won her fourth title of the season – all of them have come in the past 10 weeks – and by beating No. 1 seed Simona Halep 6-2, 6-3, she captured the inaugural Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Sunday evening.

The No. 2 seed from Estonia needed only 70 minutes to wrap up her latest title in a week in which she needed to go all the way in order to qualify for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara year-end event in Mexico. She edged out Ons Jabeur of Tunisia for the eighth and final position by winning the Transylvania Open crown.

Kontaveit, who entered the final week of the WTA regular season ranked 14th, is projected to make her Top 10 debut when the rankings are released on Monday. Her dominance on the WTA tour post-Wimbledon has been remarkable. The Estonian has strung together wins in 26 of her last 28 matches – including 10 consecutive victories – and garnered back-to-back titles at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow and at Cluj-Napoca to finish October. Her other titles came outdoors in Cleveland, Ohio, in the lead up to the US Open, and indoors in Ostrava, Czech Republic, at the start of the European indoor fall indoor season. Not bad for someone who entered the summer hardcourt season having gone 1-6 in WTA singles finals.

Kontaveit’s six finals appearances this year tied her with World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who abruptly shut down her 2021 season after the US Open and returned home to Australia in order to rest and prepare for 2022 after being on the road since March.

While Halep had won three previous meetings against Kontaveit, this time the tide turned against her. She mustered just nine winners to Kontaveit’s 21 and her serve was broken five times.

“She deserved definitely to win the match,” Halep, a two-time Grand Slam champion, said in press. “I just tried to make it longer a little bit, but I couldn’t. But many positives this week. To play after a tough year, it’s always welcome. Even if it’s the smaller trophy, it’s a trophy. So, I fell happy, I feel pleased with the way I played this week.”

Meanwhile during Kontaveit’s press conference after the trophy ceremony, she said: “Of course, I’m incredibly happy that I managed to play really well today and win the final. That was the main focus and I’m really, really proud of myself that I managed to do that.”

Bara and Gorgodze win doubles title

Unseeded Irina Bara of Romania and Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia defeated No. 2 seeds Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands and Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 4-6, 6-1, 11-9 to win the inaugural Transylvania Open doubles title. The final lasted 80 minutes and Bara and Gorgodze outpointed their opponents 62-56.

It was the first title in either singles or doubles for both Bara and Gorgodze, and according to the WTA website, it was the first WTA final of any kind for Bara, while Gorgodze had been a doubles runner-up once in 2019 with Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“I believe in myself a little bit more than I did a couple years ago, and I was trying to be aggressive but also stay consistent, and not go for too much. I think [Simona] is such a good player, and I really tried to just focus on myself and not think about the three times that I had lost to her. I just took it as a new challenge.”

Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, inaugural Transylvania Open champion, in press after her title victory.