Great Britain’s Jodie Anna Burrage was crowned champion of the inaugural Al Habtoor Women’s 25K in Dubai on Saturday. The WTA-ranked 255th player took one hour and 20 minutes to win the final 6-4, 6-3, thus ending the fairytale campaign of qualifier Yuliya Hatouka of Belarus.
The Belarussian tried to put up a brave fight at the very end of an otherwise somewhat one-sided encounter, but the Briton proved more than a match for the WTA-ranked 300th player who was hitherto having a dream run at the tournament.
Serving for the match, it looked as if the higher-ranked Briton would sail through the ninth game of the second set when she started with two thundering aces down the middle of the court. Burrage though committed an unforced error on the next rally as she missed an easy passing shot. On the next point, the Briton had no answer to the Belarusian’s beautifully crafted inside out forehand and the score was level 30-30.
A good service saw the Briton reach her first matchpoint, which she failed to convert as she netted a return at the end of a short rally. Five deuces followed, with Hatouka determined to take the match into the next game. However, a crucial ace down the middle gave the Briton the advantage and yet another matchpoint – the fifth in this game itself. This time, Burrage did not falter and converted it to take the match and the title.
The challenge came a little too late from Hatouka who nonetheless would be going back mighty pleased with her accomplishments on court this past week.
Earlier, the final began on Burrage’s service game and both players held serve until the 10th game of the set. At 4-5 and serving to stay in the set, Hatouka at deuce, double faulted her service and Burrage finished off the set by converting the set point earned. The games went with serve in the second set until the sixth game which again saw the Belarusian committing a costly double fault after being down 30-40 to give her British opponent a vital break point, which the latter converted to go up 4-2 in the set.
Though Hatouka managed to take one more service game, that was all she could do before going down fighting in the final game that saw her save four matchpoints and even earn a break point on the Briton’s serve, which albeit she squandered.
The other final of the tournament’s finale was finished earlier and saw another Briton take top honours, this time sharing the podium’s top place with a US partner. Tara Moore of Great Britain and US player Emina Bektas were crowned doubles champions but not before made to battle all the way through in the final by the Turkish duo of Berfu Cengiz and Ipek Oz. The Moore-Bektas combine notched up a 7-5, 4-6, 10-7 win to take the doubles title in the tournament’s maiden edition.
The Moore-Bektas duo, who began the final on their service game, broke the Turkish pair in the very second game of the match. However, Cengiz and Oz broke back in the very next game and followed it up by holding their serve to draw level 2-2. Games went with service until the seventh game, which saw the Turks go up 4-3 after breaking their opponents’ service game. Cengiz and Oz then held their own serve to extend their lead to 5-3.
However, the ninth game saw Moore and Bektas clawing their way back into the set with a break of their own. They went on to win the set 7-5 by virtue of yet another break earned in the 12th game of the set.
Despite going down in the first set, the Turkish duo were not in the mood to relent and came back fighting in the second set. They broke the British-US pair in the very first game of the set, but only to be broken back to bring the scores at 1-1 in the second set. A vital break in the seventh game took the Turkish pair within sights of taking the second set, which they finally won 6-4 after holding two of their service games.
The tie-breaking third set, the winner of which was to be decided by the pair first reaching 10 points, saw the US-British pair achieving an early mini-break to go 2-0. However, Oz and Cengiz rallied to bring the scores level at 2-2 and then go ahead 4-3 with another break of serve.
Moore and Bektas finally broke the deadlock breaking their opponents’ service game to go up 8-7 and then 9-7, before winning the 10th point to take the set and the match.
Delighted with the success, Noura Badawi, tournament director, said: “Today we wrapped up our Al Habtoor Women’s 24K and I am very happy and proud that we had a very good and successful tournament. The feedback from the players is overwhelming. They were happy to be in Dubai, to be in a safe environment and playing a tournament at the Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection.”
Crediting Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman, Al Habtoor Group for championing the cause of promoting women’s tennis in the Arab world, Badawi added: “I would like to thank our patron Mr Khalaf for his vision and support. He is always encouraging us to do these events, and we hold them with his guidance.”
While thanking the UAE Tennis Federation for their continuous support she highlighted that British players stole the show. “Today it was like British invasion as we had both singles and double winners from Britain.
“I am very happy to see good tennis, and happy with the results of the local tournament as well,” she added.