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Gavrilova claims first WTA title

28 August 2017

TENNIS: Australian tennis star Daria Gavrilova has claimed her maiden WTA Tour title with a rollercoaster three-set win over one-time Grand Slam finalist Dominika Cibulkova.

Gavrilova recovered from a set down to upset the tournament’s second seed 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a thrilling two-hour, 45-minute Connecticut Open final.

The watershed win lifts the 22-year-old into the world’s top 20 for the first time in a major boost ahead of the US Open starting on Monday.

“It’s even more special to win it that way, against such a tough competitor, and the semifinal, beating a top-10 player,” Gavrilova said. “I’ve beaten some great players to win my first title.”

Gavrilova had knocked out top-seeded titleholder Agnieskza Radwanska in the semifinals to be the first Australian to make the championship decider in New Haven.

Slovakia’s Cibulkova ventured all the way to the Australian Open final in 2014, losing to Victoria Azarenka, and last year confirmed her credentials with victory at the elite season-ending championships.

Gavrilova made a flying start, twice leading by a break in the opening set on Saturday.

But she conceded four of the last five games to hand Cibulkova the set.

She broke Cibulkova twice more in the second set while fighting off four break points on her own serve to tie the match up.

Momentum continued to shift in the deciding set but, even after dropping serve to love to fall behind 4-3, Gavrilova refused to go away.

She broke straight back, then stirred the crowd to life with a finger twirl before holding serve in a tense ninth game to edge ahead 5-4.

The 23-year-old Melburnian leaped over advertising hoardings after clinching victory on third match point to celebrate Pat Cash-style with her entourage, including coach Nicole Pratt and Australian Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik.

Gavrilova will head to New York brimming with confidence ahead of her first-round tussle with American qualifier Allie Kiick on Tuesday.

The Australian No.1 is seeded 25th for the last Grand Slam of the year.

“I always believed in myself that I could still win. I just managed to stay calm, managed to just be focused on the task rather than getting all emotional, going elsewhere,” Gavrilova said.

“It’s so worth it, winning your first title. Of course I gave my all, but I’m looking forward to playing on Tuesday. I will give my best on Tuesday as well.

“US Open, it’s a new opportunity.”

Matt Bartolo

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