Yanina Wickmayer Wins Inaugural Carlsbad Classic Over Nicole Gibbs
Yanina Wickmayer/ Photo: Carlsbad Classic / bartlesonguy

A packed crowd on Center Court watched a fun, tense final between Belgian Yanina Wickmayer and American Nicole Gibbs at the Carlsbad Classic in Southern California. The first edition of the WTA 125K Series tournament concluded with a tight battle between players with contrasting styles which resulted in high-quality tennis and several momentum swings. The top-seeded Belgian used her experience to grab the title by a final score of 6-3, 7-6(4). 

Wickmayer's fast first set start gives her early edge

Wickmayer was the clear favorite heading into the final. She was the higher ranked player at number 49 and had not dropped a set all week, Early signs showed that the match might be a walk in the park for the former US Open semifinalist. The Belgian quickly established a 5-0 lead without dropping any points in her opening three service games. Wickmayer came out with a clear game plan of staying aggressive and using her power to put Gibbs on the defensive. She moved forward to finish points off at the net frequently. Initially, it seemed that her power was too much for Gibbs who looked a bit slow off the blocks in moving towards and defending the Wickmayer groundstrokes.

With a great service game down 0-5, Gibbs hit an ace and added some pace into her forehand. It was that point where Gibbs started to turn the set around. She broke Wickmayer in the next game, forcing errors and then holding serve after saving a set point for 3-5. The American would keep the rallies long and began adding backhand slices into the mix. Gibbs went for big forehands to the open court when possible as it was apparent that she was now holding her own against the top seed. The comeback in the first set came a bit too late though. Wickmayer held serve on her second attempt to serve for the match with a big crosscourt forehand winner to take the opener 6-3.

Gibbs loses early second set break advantage

Gibbs carried momentum from the end of the first set into the second with the crowd now enthusiastically cheering on the American player, Gibbs was able to break Wickmayer to take an early 3-1 lead. Rallies were long and Wickmayer was struggling to finish off points against the former NCAA champion who was showing tremendous court coverage and defense. That was forcing Wickmayer to go for too much in her shots and make errors. Wickmayer stuck to her game plan though and after struggling with errors early in the set, her aggressive playing style started to click once again. Serving at 4-2, Gibbs was broken at 15 and looked frustrated with some line calls and the fact that she was failing to capitalize on her early advantage. The following games went with the server, although most were tight with both players showing plenty of emotions and going after their shots, In the tiebreak, Wickmayer got off to an early lead and continued to hold her own service points. She took the second set and match with a forehand winner.

Both Players Take Positives From 2015 Finale

Despite the loss, it was a great effort from the 22-year-old American against a more experienced player in good form. Gibbs struggled early in the year, but will now start 2016 close to the top 100 without many points to defend early in the new season. For Wickmayer, the title caps off a resurgent season where she worked her way back up the rankings thanks to a strong fall season. That portion of the season saw her win the title at the Japan Women's Open and reach the semifinals of the Guangzhou Open. The inaugural Carlsbad Classic showed as a well-organized event with nice crowds. A quality finals match helped end a successful new addition to the American WTA calendar.