WOW. Lucie Safarova won her biggest career title as she defeated Victoria Azarenka, 6-4 6-3 in the final of the 2015 Qatar Open. This was a tremendous week of tennis from Lucie as she beat Sam Stosur, Ekaterina Makarova, Andrea Petkovic, Carla Suarez Navarro and Azarenka. I would never have imagined at the start of the week that we would be saying Doha champion, Lucie Safarova. Lucie started the match in fine form, continuing from her last two matches against Petkovic and Suarez Navarro. Lucie looked so in control of her groundstrokes at the start as she went up 2-0*.
Azarenka started to settle and broke back to 3-3 after a costly miss from Lucie serving at *15-30. It felt like the match was turning as Vika started to make the rallies much longer. Her backhand slice has become a real weapon and she used it well all week. Azarenka went up 4-3 30-0* and also had a break point. After holding valiantly, things seemed to turn for Vika. The leg injury that was bothering her in the semi-final against Venus started to flare up again. Lucie won the next two games to claim the first set, 6-4. Serving out the set was one of those hide-behind-a-pillow moments. She was taken to deuce, as always is the case (!), but she kept it together.
Stepping away from the fact I was cheering for Lucie, it was a great set of tennis. Both had positive winner to unforced error differentials (Lucie +8 and Vka +1). I have to admit, the second set was a little awkward. Vika was obviously struggling with the leg and it became more of a problem as she was grimacing and not moving well at all. Playing against an injured opponent is not as easy as it looks and I thought Lucie did a good job at staying focussed and in the moment. She successfully manoeuvred her way through a couple of tight service games where her first serve escaped her. She kept holding. When Lucie stepped up to serve at *4-3, it was joyous. Lucie served three aces and then smacked a winner to effectively break Vika’s resistance. Lucie quickly worked up three match points. You could see a very slight smile when she was on match point! She sealed the win on her third match point with a successful challenge.
Funny story… I always play the fill-in-the-draw game on the Women’s Tennis Forums, which is basically the WTA Draw Challenge. I’ve played it for four years and never won a tournament. I’ve come 2nd about 98 times. If Vika had won, I would have won it!!!!! It’s quite hilarious that Lucie prevented me from my first win but I couldn’t be more delighted to see my prediction crash and burn. I can’t wait to see what Lucie is going to do for the rest of the year. I have a feeling that the Lucie bandwagon is going to gain momentum in the next coming weeks. I hope that #teamsafarova manage to keep their feet on the ground! Lucie moves up to a new career best ranking of world number 11. The top ten is in sight. It’s been a ball watching Doha this week and supporting Lucie with so many other fans on Twitter. For all those tough moments, particularly the Australian Open, it’s made all the more sweeter with days like today. Congratulations, Lucie…