KUDERMETOVA POWERS WAY TO MAIDEN WTA CROWN

KUDERMETOVA POWERS WAY TO MAIDEN WTA CROWN

RUSSIAN FIRST SINCE ’12 TO WIN VOLVO CAR OPEN WITHOUT DROPPING A SET

Veronika Kudermetova came here a virtual unknown; a few marquee match wins on her resume, but no WTA Tour titles to speak of. She leaves the 2021 Volvo Car Open champion, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in Sunday’s title match at the LTP Daniel Island Tennis Center.

The 15th-seeded Russian was thoroughly dominant all week long. She became the first player since Serena Williams in 2012 to win the Charleston title without so much as dropping a set.

“To be honest, when I came here, I didn’t believe I could take the title,” said Kudermetova, the tournament’s third Russian champion, joining Nadia Petrova (2006) and Daria Kasatkina (2017). “But when I started to play the matches, I just focused on my work. Tactics, work, that’s it. Match by match, I started to play really well. I hope I can continue to play like this and believe in myself, just work and play smart.”

In a week that saw the top 10 seeds all ousted by Friday — World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and fellow Slam champs Petra Kvitova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Sofia Kenin included — it felt like a true coming out party for the heavy-hitting 23-year-old. She smacked 31 aces over six matches to take over the tour lead in that category with 130 on the year, now three ahead of her closest challenger, the top-ranked Barty.

The unseeded Kovinic, at No. 91 the lowest-ranked player to reach the final since an unranked Jennifer Capriati in 1990, was also seeking her first WTA crown. But it was not to be.

Kovinic, who took out three seeds to reach the title match — No. 3 Kvitova, No. 11 Yulia Putintseva and No. 12 Ons Jabeur — found herself in an early 0-2 hole in the opening set on the Althea Gibson Club Court. Though she would reel off three straight games to pull ahead, her advantage was short-lived. The 26-year-old Montenegrin would finish with six double faults and had her serve broken eight times.

“It was an amazing week for me,” said Kudermetova. “I think I deserve this trophy. Most important, I started to trust myself and believe. My confidence got higher because I started to practice really well. I’m not focusing on the result, I’m just focused on fighting. That’s it.”

Kudermetova, coached by her husband, Sergei Demekhine, and Vlado Platenik, improved to 2-0 against Kovinic in career head-to-heads, having also notched a 6-4, 7-5 win in Shenzhen in 2019.

She reached her first WTA final earlier this year in Abu Dhbai, where she upset 5th-ranked Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals, and is the fifth first-time winner on the tour in 2021, following Clara Tauson (Lyon), Sara Sorribes Tormo (Guadalajara), Leylah Fernandez (Monterrey) and María Camila Osorio Serrano (Bogotá).