Fans in the Singapore Indoor Stadium were witnessed to a high-quality doubles match as Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova defeated surprise finalists Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson in an interesting match-up in the Championship match of the 2017 WTA Finals.
Ranking implications: Finalists all make a notable rise
Overcoming their early nerves, Babos and Hlavackova triumphed in three sets against the debutants, who sneaked into the tournament only after several withdrawals having ended the routine season ranked 11th. Bertens and Larsson will now make their debuts in the top-20 while Hlavackova re-enters the top five as Babos reaches a new career-high ranking of seven.
However, previously, news has broken out that this would be Hlavackova and Babos’ last tournament together as a pair, and they will have brand new partners starting from next year. Therefore, it would come as a huge pity considering that they have just won the biggest title of their partnership.
Tight start to the encounter
Both pairs were really impressive on their serves early on, most particularly the underdogs, Bertens and Larsson, as they were just untouchable. Defeating the second seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in straight sets yesterday night with an inspired performance, the eighth seeds carried over the momentum into this match as they dug deep to find their opportunities.
Meanwhile, Babos and Hlavackova comes into the Championship match with their first win over Chan Yung-jan and Martina Hingis, the world number ones, and are full of confidence. However, as mentioned in their post-match interview, Hlavackova mentioned that there were some early jitters for them, considering that it was their biggest final of the year.
Bertens and Larsson gets close to an upset
The first real opportunity to break serve came in the fourth game when Hlavackova served, with Bertens coming up with some baseline prowess to get to deuce. Larsson was able to challenge Babos at the net but a timely ace down-the-tee saved them from the brink, remaining on serve. The returners of the games just could not find the rhythm as it soon became a serve-dominated contest.
Serving to stay in the set at 4-5 down, Babos and Hlavackova got their rhythm all messed up, while Bertens and Larsson were able to come up with some incredible shots to get the first break point of the afternoon. Ultimately, the underdogs sealed the high-quality first set 6-4 after just 38 minutes of play.
Exchange of breaks to start the set
Determined to produce a comeback, Babos and Hlavackova had the perfect start to the second set as Bertens and Larsson lost their focus momentarily, allowing the third seeds to break serve in the opening game. Unexpectedly, the Dutch-Swedish pair was able to break straight back with Larsson’s defence coupled with Bertens’ aggression proving to be of high-quality.
Babos and Hlavackova levels the score
The set then went on serve until the seventh game where the fans witnessed the longest game of the match. Bertens and Larsson showed some resilience when they saved two break points and threatened to hold serve after earning a total of three game points, with Larsson’s baseline game being too good. However, they were still unable to hold on as Babos and Hlavackova after Larsson sent a backhand wide. Remaining solid on their serves, the third seeds eventually served out the set to love, sending the match into a deciding set.
Babos and Hlavackova takes the title
The pressure started to kick in for Bertens and Larsson as they threw in a succession of unforced errors, allowing their higher-ranked opponents to jump out to a commanding 4-0 lead. Although the underdogs tried their best to keep the scores close, Babos and Hlavackova was just too strong and ultimately closed out the match tiebreak [10-6] after 11 minutes, adding their names to the notable and prestigious list of WTA Finals champions.