Czechmate: Fruhvirtova bags maiden WTA title

Highly-rated teenager shows plenty of spark to clinch Chennai Open, could potentially go on to emulate former winners in bigger events in the near future

Published: 19th September 2022 09:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2022 09:13 AM   |  A+A-

Linda Fruhvirtova celebrates after winning the Chennai Open title

Linda Fruhvirtova celebrates after winning the Chennai Open title (Photo | Ashwin Prasath)

Express News Service

A plethora of Grand Slam champions either before or after they won their maiden Major — have graced the blue hardcourts of Chennai. Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka,  Marin Cilic, Daniil Medvedev, Patrick Rafter... this list is not exhaustive.

Keeping in mind the one main caveat to the overall development of a tennis player's injuries it may be okay to assume that, over the last week, it may have well hosted another potential champion. There's of course a long way to go yet — this was a 250 event and the field wasn't the greatest — so it's important to retain perspective. But it's also easy to see why there's lots of excitement about what the future could hold for 17-year-old, Linda Fruhvirtova. For starters, tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou likes her. He anointed her a possible future No 1 a few years ago.

During the course of the tournament, WTA Tour Supervisor, Kerrilyn Cramer, had told this daily to watch for the girl from the Czech Republic. She was replying to a question on whether the tournament if it continues in the future, could hope to attract players who have a high development ceiling.
On Sunday, the Czech Republic teen showed why a lot of people are excited for her. She exhibited all the traits — a never-say-die attitude, winning the biggest points, holding serve in the biggest moments and closing when presented with an opportunity — that makes the best tennis players.

In a final that lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, the Czech engineered multiple Houdini Acts. None of it more significant when Magda Linette was eight points away from picking up her third tour-level title. At 1-4 in the final set, it looked like curtains for her. But her opponent, Magda Linette, had a visit from the trainer for a leg issue. A little over 20 minutes later, Fruhvirtova was lying on the ground, soaking in the adulation after Linette had sent a return long. Courtside, her coach was punching the air in jubilation. A maiden WTA tour-level title (4-6, 6-3, 6-4) had come in the most dramatic of circumstances. She won the last five games, hitting winners, forcing errors from Linette and holding serves with relative ease. It also made her the youngest winner on tour since Coco Gauff's victory in Parma last year.

The more experienced Pole (Fruhvirtova was four when Linette turned professional) was the slight favourite to begin with — big-match nous, title-winning experience and in form — but the Czech wasn't at all fazed by the situation. She opened the match by holding serve before saving three break points in the third game. It was also a sign of things to come. There weren't many service winners. The exchanges at the net were few and far in between as both players typically engaged their opponent from the comfort of their baseline.

After losing out on the longer rallies as well as not landing enough balls in play in the first set, she recalibrated. It caused problems for the Pole who was slowly being asked to run from coast to coast. That the Czech also has a lovely touch play a drop shot added to the Pole's complications. The tide started to change as she won the second set.

In the third, it once again shifted to World No 67 from Poland. She appeared the fresher of the two with Fruhvirtova, the World No 130, frequently using the towel. At 1-4, it was going to be the final throw of the dice. Luckily for her, it worked.

At the on-court prize distribution ceremony, she was overcome with emotion, shedding tears of joy. "Pretty much in shock, didn't expect this," she said. On where the match turned decisively, she pointed out to holding serve in the sixth game of the final set. "It was a matter of one break.  She had a chance to go 5-1 and that would have been pretty bad for my chances. When I won that, I started believing again. I got my confidence again and just fought for every point."

In Sunday's first final, top seeds, Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski and Brazilian Luisa Stefani showcased their full range to coast past Anna Blinkova and her Georgian partner Natela Dzalamide. That the prize distribution lasted almost as long as the match — 58 minutes — was a fair reflection of the superiority on display.  

Results (all final): Singles: Linda Fruhvirtova bt Magda Linette 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.


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