It was a weekend of firsts this week on the WTA Tour as both American Christina McHale and Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin claimed their maiden WTA Tour titles.
Christina McHale produced a stirring comeback to defeat Katerina Siniakova in the final of the Japan Women’s Open Tennis and lift her maiden WTA title.
A semifinalist 12 months ago, McHale looked in store for another near-miss when she trailed Siniakova by a set and a break. However, a timely rain delay and a run of eight straight games turned the match on its head as the American closed out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
In a contest of numerous twists and turns, McHale was very nearly foiled at the last, Sinaikova rallying from 5-2 down to set up a tense conclusion.
Ultimately, McHale’s nerve held steady, completing an emotional victory when Siniakova tugged a backhand wide.
“I don’t even want to put my trophy down – i just want to hold it all the time,” McHale said during the trophy presentation. “I’ve been coming to this tournament for a few years now and I really love it here. Thanks to all the fans and everyone here for sticking through all the rain delays – we’ve had a few, especially today!”
Sinaikova, who also lost in the Bastad final this summer, was unable to hide her disappointment at witnessing what would have been her first title slip away.
“I’m here in the final for the second time and unfortunately it was really tough for me, so I’m a little sad. But Christina played really well, so congratulations to her,” she said.
McHale later tweeted this;
McHale, whose only previous WTA final came at Acapulco in 2014, endured a marathon journey to the winner’s circle, spending over 13 hours on court after going the distance in each of her five matches.
For the first set and a half against Siniakova, this arduous route looked to have taken its toll. When the rain came, it halted the Czech just three games short of the trophy. Although, she held serve on the resumption, McHale sensed her chance going on the offensive to take the next three games and with it the set.
In the decider, McHale came out firing, a backhand onto the baseline helping her to a 2-0 lead. As her young opponent’s frustrations boiled to the surface, she soon stretched this to 4-0. Siniakova rallied, reducing her arrears to 5-4 and threatening to stretch the match beyond the three-hour mark before McHale broke for a seventh and final time.
In Quebec, Canada, French teenager Oceane Dodin thrilled the Coupe Banque Nationale crowd by capturing her first WTA title with a 6-4, 6-3 win over American Lauren Davis in the final.
Dodin twice reached the second round of major tournaments in 2015, but coming into this week in Québec, the fearless Frenchwoman had never won a main draw match outside the Grand Slams, though she did reach the semifinals of a WTA 125K Series event in Limoges.
“It’s very special for me. This is a very nice tournament; I feel like I’m in France because the people are very friendly and supportive of me! Everyone was with me today and that helps so much when it’s a tough score.”
But the 19-year-old got on a roll once she upset No.5 seed Naomi Broady, dropping just one more set en route to the title.
Hitting 31 winners to just 26 unforced errors against Davis on Sunday, Dodin converted six of 10 break point chances and brought her aggressive ground game to net a whopping 26 times – winning 16 of those points. Up a set and a break, things started to tighten, but Dodin kept in front until the very end.
“It was a very tough match, very difficult,” Dodin said after the win. “She plays very well, and runs everywhere! I’m just trying to improve my game so I’m there for every point, focus on my serve. That helped me so much in this match.”
“After the first set, I started thinking, ‘One set and you’re going to win this tournament,’ so I started getting a little bit nervous and at 3-0, 40-0, I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ She made a little comeback, so at the end I was very nervous.
“I was thinking, ‘You can’t play a third set, so you absolutely have to win the second.’ My coach has helped me so much with the mental side, and I saw him like, ‘Go, go, go!’ So I’m very happy with myself.”
With the win, Dodin is set to crack the Top 100 for the first time in her career, and is the first teenager to win a WTA title in 2016.
Despite the loss, it was still a great week for Davis, who reached her second career WTA final in the last two months, having also finished runner-up at the Citi Open. Back in the Top 100 herself, Davis is opting to skip the Asian swing, planning instead to play the slate of indoor tournaments in Europe, primarily Linz and Luxembourg, before season’s end.
“I’ve gotten a lot of matches under my belt, and so I’m feeling a lot of confidence. Going into next season, I’m looking forward to playing even better.”