Fighting For Every Point, Tig Wins First WTA Tour-Level Title

Patricia Maria Tig celebrates her first WTA tour-level title with her family (photo: Gökhan Taner/@gokhantnr)

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Neither of the finalists competing for the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship Istanbul singles title, former World No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and 88th-ranked Patricia Maria Tig from Romania had met on the WTA Tour before Sunday’s final in Istanbul. Yet, both arrived on the Center Court at the Turkish Tennis Federation Tennis Center with a common goal of winning a crown – even though they both took uncommon paths to get there in this WTA International clay court event in this major Turkish city that straddles Europe and Asia.

Bouchard, who began the week ranked No. 272, had not competed in a WTA final since the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur in March 2016, which she lost to Elina Svitolina. The last time she won a title – her only tour-level one – was six years ago in Nuremberg, on clay over Karolina Pliskova. A victory over Tig would make her the fourth-lowest ranked player to win a WTA Tour title and the lowest-ranked qualifier to achieve this feat. Meanwhile, Tig was in search of the first tour-level title of her career. Both had a lot of personal capital invested this week in Istanbul.

For a set, everything went Bouchard’s way. She exuded confidence, ripped her ground strokes for winners and generally dictated play. However, Tig had other ideas. She wanted to win just as badly as Bouchard and was willing to battle for every point. Tig dominated the second set as much as Bouchard had the first. So, it became a winner-take-all third set and both were ready for the sprint to the finish line.

With her family looking on, Tig needed eight championship points to close out the match but never wavered in her desire to triumph. Finally, the Bucharest native won 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) after toiling for two hours and 29 minutes – fighting for every point while keeping her emotions in check.

Twice, Tig was a break up in the deciding third set only to see Bouchard storm back. The Canadian battled from 1-4, 15-40 down, and saved six championship points that forced a tie break to decide the outcome of the match. Tig jumped ahead 5-2, then Bouchard saved another championship point before the Romanian finally prevailed at the conclusion of the 75-minute decider.

Both of the 26-year-old competitors tapped their racquets politely at the net and went their separate ways. After Tig collected her towel, she calmly walked over to the sideline seats and shared a kiss with her husband and coach, Razvan Sabau. Her one-year-old daughter, Sofia, attended the final, too.

Tig finished with a 66 percent efficiency in winning her first points (39 of 59) and saved six of 10 break points. Although Bouchard won seven more points on serve, Tig outpointed Bouchard by 12 points  – 47-35 – on returns and outpointed the Canadian overall 98-93.

During a Zoom video chat soon after the trophy ceremony, a tired but nevertheless elated Tig was asked by Tennis TourTalk how she could best describe her feelings upon winning her first WTA tour-level title. Tig said, “I don’t think I realize [what’s happened] right now, I’m very tired. Overall, I’m very happy and excited about my performance.”

When Tig was asked why she thought she won – especially after enduring seven match points erased by Bouchard – she pondered the question carefully, then thoughtfully answered, “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong on those match points. On each match point, I was trying to do better.

“I fought for every point in every way I could,” said Tig, describing how she overcame being down a set to recover over the next two. “I think it’s very difficult to maintain that high a level during the whole match and I knew that if I was going to be there, and fight for every point, it would get better. It did and I’m really happy about it.”

Toward the middle of the conversation, Tig gave props to Bouchard, her fallen opponent. “She played amazing. We both fought for every point, it was a really great match,” she said.

During the trophy ceremony, Bouchard said, “Wow, what a match! I want to congratulate my opponent, Patricia, for playing so well today.” She thanked her coach Tim Blenkiron for “helping me improve each day. I want to thank my family and friends who are watching from home around the world, waking up at crazy hours to watch my matches, especially my mom. So, thank you, I feel the support a lot.”

The Montréal native also thanked the tournament for giving her a wild card into the qualifying event. “My ranking wasn’t even good enough to get into this tournament,” she said. So, thanks to you I had a chance to play and get all the way to the final. This was a very memorable week in Istanbul and I hope to be back.”

Bouchard came into the final ready to do battle – and with a spark in her game – not afraid to take on all comers. With her 6-1 week (two wins in qualifying and four more in the main draw, including an upset of the tournament’s top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round), Bouchard’s ranking will jump to No. 167.

With Sunday’s victory and title – and after sharing the trophy celebration on court with her husband and daughter, who has been her biggest fan all week – Tig will attain a new career-best ranking of No. 58 when the WTA Rankings are updated on Monday. She’s the third-highest-ranked mom on tour after Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

Compared to the payouts at the US Open, where Tig competed last week and advanced to the second round, the prize money and rankings points for Istanbul are modest but just as important and valuable: $25,000 and 280 points to the winner and $14,000 and 180 points to the runner up.

Asked what winning her first tour-level title means to her, Tig said: “I’ve thought about it for a very long time. I’m happy I could do it here [in Istanbul]. It’s been a very special tournament for us. We have enjoyed our time on and off the court. It will help me to play bigger tournaments and get on the main tour directly.”

Top seeds Guarachi and Krawczyk win doubles title

The top two seeded doubles teams, No. 1 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk from the United States faced No. 2 seeds Ellen Perez and Storm Sanders, both from Australia, faced off in the final, and it was the top seeds who prevailed 6-1, 6-3 in 58 minutes to split $9,000 and 280 rankings points. The runners up will share $5,000 and 180 points.

Guarachi and Krawczyk reached the final by dropping just one set, while Perez and Sanders had a clean sheet in each of their three matches.

Around the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship Istanbul