STUTTGART, Germany - In a week that started with eight of the world's Top 10 competing, World No.6 Karolina Pliskova was the last player standing at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
The Czech No.1 claimed her first title of 2018 with a 7-6(2), 6-4 win over American World No.16 and wildcard CoCo Vandeweghe.
As it happened: Pliskova powers to first title of 2018 in Stuttgart
Pliskova rallied from an early break down in the first set, only to dominate the eventual tiebreak to the tune of seven straight points after falling 2-0 down.
In the second set, the former World No.1 won three straight games from 2-2, but ultimately needed two opportunities to serve out the match to clinch her first title at the Premier-level or higher on clay, and 10th WTA title of her career.
"All matches we play, it’s pretty similar. There is always a tiebreak and there is always one break in the set. It’s always tough with her. You have to really be there mentally to try to get every point even though you are down in the game," Pliskova said after the match.
"I’m happy that I made it and didn’t have to go through a third set because it’s always about a few points."
Pliskova's only previous title on the terre battue came in her home country in 2015, as she defeated compatriot Lucie Hradecka to win the International-level event in Prague.
On the other side of the net, Vandeweghe was in unfamiliar territory in the championship match, as the American was contesting her first clay court final at all levels.
The World No.16 got off to the stronger start of the two in the opening set, as she broke Pliskova in the first game of the match en route to taking a 2-0 lead.
However, Pliskova hit back with a love break in the fourth game, and both players comfortably stayed on serve - as neither faced a break point - until the set wound through to a tiebreak.
"I had I think almost all first serves in the first game but I think she really started...she was pumped, she was motivated," Pliskova said of Vandeweghe's hot start. "She just went for it and she played the game better. I played a little bit slower in some shots but she just played all the shots right and that’s why she had the break.
"I got, thank God, quickly back in the match and I had an easy break on her serve which I didn’t have for the rest of the match. She can play big shots, she can play big games and then she can give you some points. I was waiting for a chance, so I got few today."
After the American won the first two points of the breaker, Pliskova came out on top of a magical rally with a delicate dropshot to get back on serve, and won the last seven points of the set to move into the lead.
In the second set, both players again went with serve until the middle stages, when Pliskova edged out her first break of the set in a multi-deuce game.
The next two games also went to multiple deuces, but it was the 2016 US Open finalist who won them all, as the American's consistency began to falter, to move a game away from victory at 5-2.
The American would not go quietly, however, as she set up her first break point of the set with some crisp play at the net, and not only converted on it, but also powered her way to an emphatic hold that put Pliskova back at the line.
"[My] serve was okay, the end was a little bit shaky I would say, but it's normal when you are playing and the car is waiting there," Pliskova added. "I think trouble was the game when it was 5-2. I started kind of slow. I didn’t really serve well that game, there was one double fault.
"Maybe I thought in my head, because it was a tough game for 5-2, I was a little bit down with my emotions, with my legs a little bit slow. I felt maybe she's going to give me that game. She went quite like more aggressive than [she had] until that time but she didn’t miss. She just went for it. Even the game after I think I didn’t play a bad game but she just made some winners and played some good shots."
With Vandeweghe two points away from leveling the set at 5-5, Pliskova found some of her biggest serves of the match, and sealed victory - and a brand new Porsche - in just under two hours.
"It was a very tight match. It is very minute inches thatdefinitely decided the match, especially the first set, Vandeweghe said in defeat. "I was climbing my way back in the second set, but she hit an ace on her second serve. That’s too good. Sometimes, your opponent plays too good.
"The only thing I know is I gave everything I had out there today and I tried to change it up every once in a while, tried to hustle down extra balls, I missed a few volleys that I probably would like to have back. I’m very proud of my performance."
The victory not only marks Pliskova's 10th title of her career, but is her fourth consecutive final won after losing the 2016 US Open final to Angelique Kerber.
"I think it’s huge for me because I did some work, but not always after you do some good work, you get rewarded immediately with a title," she said. "I didn’t think it’s going to be that easy or that quick that I’m going to do a title. I’m happy with the work I did before the tournaments, before Fed Cup.
I was ready for the week even though I feel super tired now. I think it was a great week with a lot of tough matches. I just stayed there mentally which is always important. I think it was a good start but hopefully I can [have] some more victories on clay."
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This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.