Coming into Prague, Lucie Safarova had won just one set from five singles matches in 2016… roll on the week and Lucie has been crowned the champ! If you’d told me that Lucie would win Prague before the tournament, I really wouldn’t have believed it. Lucie came from a set down to defeat Sam Stosur, 3-6 6-1 6-4 in the final of the J&T Banka Prague Open, to win her 7th WTA title in front of a jubilant home crowd.
Sam went ahead early, setting up break points with a quite remarkable backhand return winner that found the corner, before breaking to 30. It would turn out to be the only break of the set with Stosur serving out the set to love, 6-3. Lucie looked a little sluggish early on and seemed to struggle to get under some of Stosur’s slices and keep up with her pace. The footwork was a little off, but the serve allowed her time to settle.
Lucie stormed through the second set, 6-1. She was a tad fortunate to get the first break as Stosur threw in an avalanche of double faults. From there though, peak Lucie made an appearance! Aces, return winners, aggressive groundstrokes… it was all there and Lucie was dictating the play. She hit her first double fault of the match on set point but duly converted on her second set point (having fended off a break point) with a crashing forehand winner.
The quality of tennis was decent in this match and the pair were locked on serve at the start of the third set. Lucie missed two returns at 2-2 30-30, but rebounded in style with a convincing service hold. In the crucial and often-decisive seventh game of the set, Lucie broke to love with another really aggressive (but consistent!) game. She had Stosur pinned behind the baseline and was playing her game perfectly. Sam held to force Lucie to serve out the match. I always feel like hiding behind the sofa in these moments as serving out sets and matches has never been straightforward for Lucie although she’s come a long way mentally.
Lucie was up *5-4 *30-0 but that quickly became *30-30 after an excellent point from Sam and a WILD forehand long from Lucie. She settled (with some deep breaths!) to earn a first match point but couldn’t take it. Another ace, her 13th of the match, set up match point #2 for Lucie… and would you Adam and Eve it, a 14th ace followed to seal the victory!
I’m so, so, so, so chuffed for Lucie. After everything that she’s been through with her health these past six months, I couldn’t be happier for her. I still think back to that Facebook post and it just further validates why i’m a fan and the respect I have for Lucie, not only as a tennis player, but as a human being! Her attitude and determination to never give up and keep fighting is exemplary.
I’m pleasantly surprised that she managed to win five matches in Prague and also, snap the losing streak against Pliskova in the semi-finals! Lucie has looked a few steps slow this year and it’s no surprise because, as she stated in her Facebook post, she’s coming back from literally nothing fitness-wise. Furthermore, she hasn’t been used to playing multiple singles matches and particularly, day in, day out with no rest days too. I’d guess all the doubles with Beth and Sabine must have had a positive impact but i’m still bowled over by Lucie’s performances this week.
Of course, Lucie has finals points to defend at Roland Garros coming up. I’m intrigued to see how she deals with that… whether the pressure to defend points will be there or if she can just concentrate on the fact that she seems to be fit and healthy again, and actually draw on all the positive memories from 2015. Lucie’s a confidence player and this week will have done her the world of good. I think it will be a tough ask to back up this run in Madrid with such little time to recover/prepare and with no byes, she’ll have to play every day from Monday. However, this win sets her up well for the rest of the clay court season… Lucie’s back 🙂