In the first time in WTA’s history, a player born in the 2000s will claim their maiden WTA title after 17-year-olds Anastasia Potapova went up against lucky-loser Olga Danilovic in the final of the 2018 Moscow River Cup after their impressive campaigns. The Russian came into this match as the slight favourite considering that she had beaten the Serbian on multiple occasions in juniors, but Danilovic stunned the crowd after beating the home favourite in three sets, producing an incredible comeback in the deciding set to triumph with an extraordinary 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 scoreline after two-hours and 18-minutes of play.
The first set saw Potapova jump out to a huge 4-1 lead with chances for a double-break advantage but Danilovic soon found her game and ultimately came back roaring to take the opening set 7-5. The Serbian seemed to be strolling through the match before sending down a nervous double-fault on her Championship point at 5-4 in the second set, which ultimately paved the way back for the local wildcard to send the match into a decider. Potapova led 4-3, 40-0 in the deciding set but failed to consolidate her lead as Danilovic smashed her way to the win, claiming her first WTA title in her first main draw appearance as a lucky loser.
In years to come, this match-up could easily be a Major final with both players having a bright future ahead of them.
Danilovic produces a great comeback to take the first set
The nerves were definitely overwhelming Danilovic when the Serbian had a shocking start to the match — blasting consecutive unforced errors to get broken in her opening service game and Potapova impressively capitalized on her chance to storm towards an early and commanding 3-0 lead within a blink of an eye.
A tough service hold for Danilovic followed with the lucky-loser gaining the confidence with a series of excellent lefty serves, getting onto the scoreboard after four games. Potapova, remaining extremely solid in her game, was playing some flawless tennis, and soon earned the golden opportunity to extend her lead by grabbing another pair of break points in the sixth game.
That was the turning point of the entire first set as Danilovic stepped up her aggressive game, firing down some impressive winners to claim the nervy yet confidence-boosting hold to lessen the deficit. This ultimately paved the way for the 17-year-old to clinch four games on the trot, alongside the chance to serve out the set.
Potapova then produced an outstanding rebound to break straight back and level the scores with an excellent retrieval to a drop shot which helped her level the scores. However, she was unable to keep up her level of intensity as errors started to leak from her game, allowing Danilovic to rattle off eight of the final nine points to take the first set 7-5.
Potapova sneaks through and claims the second set
Unlike the first set, the second set was relatively straightforward with neither of them being able to find a breakthrough on the return. Eight consecutive service holds started the set although Potapova often found herself on the back foot as she found herself being stuck at 30-30 on her serve.
For the first time in the match, Potapova felt the pressure and she became increasingly passive while serving at 4-4. Although she fended off a break point with a fantastic backhand winner, Danilovic was still able to earn the break with a stunning return winner for the opportunity to serve for the match.
However, this time the nerves were transferred to Danilovic as the Serbian threw in a nervous and heavy double-fault on her first Championship point, and Potapova, with her tough mentality, stormed back to return level out of nowhere. The set was brought into a tiebreak and the Russian was getting pumped up after claiming seven straight points to take the second set with an ace, sending the match into a deciding set.
Danilovic overcomes late nerves, grabs the win and the title
Potapova failed to ride on her momentum and was surprisingly broken in her first service game and Danilovic found herself leading 2-0, and she seemed to have overcome the heartbreaking double-fault on her match point. Nonetheless, the 17-year-old wildcard hailing from Russia broke straight back, before she survived an incoming onslaught to save four break points in a thrilling game to get the crowd standing on their feet.
Interestingly, the deciding set only featured three holds of serve while Potapova missed out on a huge chance to close out the match — wasting a 4-3 40-0 lead on her serve proved costly as Danilovic came back roaring into contention. Serving to stay in the match at 4-5 down, Potapova saved two match points with the help of the Serbian’s forehand errors and even earned a game point. However, Danilovic’s powerful returns came timely, ultimately smashing her way to a tough 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 win for her maiden WTA title.