Serbia’s Olga Danilovic created WTA history on Sunday as she became the first player born in the 2000’s to lift a WTA title as she defeated fellow 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova in the Moscow final 7-5 6-7 (1) 6-4.
Going into this match it was Potapova who really was deemed the slight favourite. She’d marginally played more matches at this level, this was her third ever tournament on the WTA, while Danilovic was playing her debut tournament. Potapova had great Juniors experience to draw upon, having won the Wimbledon title two years ago and has been highly regarded as a player to look out for in the years to come, but there are two things that this particular final really highlighted, and that is simply that these two players can lead the tour with many great battles in the years ahead–and that Olga Danilovic has reminded the watching tennis world that she can certainly play at a supremely high level herself, and her performances all week have suggested just that.
In the beginning of the Moscow final it was the Russian wild card who took the real first movements in the match and she started strongly and she took advantage of plenty of early unforced errors in the rally from the Serbian. The good thing for Danilovic is that she improved enough to really save the set and did not let the Russian get too far ahead of herself. The Serbian star started to put a few big forehands together and found herself back on serve at 4-3 and in prime position to really make a real go of the first set, which was not the case ten minutes prior. Danilovic started firing winners left, right, and centre and broke for 5-4, but would need two bites of the cherry to serve out the set at 6-5 with relative ease. The power game of Danilovic was really coming into fruition but the question was whether that power game was sustainable and whether she could bring that same aggression balanced out with a measure of consistency.
The match continued to be an absolutely enthralling battle between two of the best young talents that the WTA has to offer. Going into the match plenty suggested that this is an ideal final that the tour really needed, but for it to deliver on all fronts. It had the entertainment factor, the dramatic points and the fearless ball-striking from both players in a situation that was unfamiliar to both–playing a WTA final for the first time.
The second set continued in the same pattern of engaging power hitting, but the Serbian was the first to break for 5-4, but served an untimely double fault on her first championship point and her game started to crumble piece by piece, while Potapova used the energy of the Russian crowd and used each and every killer blow to elevate her game when it mattered most. After dominating a 2nd set tiebreak, losing just the one point, it was starting to look like Russia’s star talent was going to seize control in the 3rd set, but a revitalised Danilovic had other ideas.
We knew that Danilovic had the shot-making ability. We knew that she had the star quality to trouble and beat the best players in the world. She showed that with her upset of Julia Goerges and Kaia Kanepi earlier on in the week, but could she problem-solve in the biggest of moments, in a final, against a player she knows so well. Danilovic really answered all of her critics and it was as much a mental struggle that she overcame as well as the understandable physical challenges that such a long match has on a young talent.
Danilovic took an early break with a flurry of forehand winners to break for 2-0, but Potapova came charging back and was looking the more likely as the Serbian started getting down on herself, looking for answers that weren’t coming and looking totally dejected, but the lioness inside came roaring back at the most unlikely of times. The 2016 Wimbledon juniors champion led by a break at 3-2 and 4-3, but Danilovic dug deep, sensed she still had a lot to give to the match and her desire to fight back when her back was against the wall was remarkable in itself. She took a big hold for 5-4 in the 3rd set and then took care of a final overhead to seal the most sensational of victories. It was Danilovic’s moment in the sun and that winning smile is something we may have to get used to in the years that lie ahead on the WTA tour.
The lasting feeling of this particular final is that there is so much depth in the WTA. There is depth at the high end of the tour with plenty of different winners each and every week, but this final is a reminder that there are some top young talent that are capable of stepping up and capable of believing in the big moments of the big matches on the biggest stages. It was a great final and one that will be remembered as one of the most enticing finals on the WTA tour for quite some time.
Embed from Getty Images