Paszek Edges Kerber, Conquers Eastbourne
Having come from 64 40 down in the semifinals, did she really have another comeback in her? The answer is yes - Tamira Paszek came back from the brink of defeat in the AEGON International final, saving five match points to beat Angelique Kerber and win her first Premier title.
With a 2-13 record on the year and five Top 10 players in the draw, Paszek wasn't exactly the favorite for the title at the start of the week. But match by match she started getting better and better, and the talent and toughness were both on full display in the semis as she came from the aforementioned deficit to upset No.4 seed and defending champion Marion Bartoli, 46 75 64.
That wasn't Paszek's last great comeback of the week, either. With four straight set wins, Angelique Kerber got up to 40 match wins on the year - the WTA's match win leader in fact, two better than Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska. And the No.5-seeded German looked headed for her 41st win as she built a 5-3 lead in the third set, and even brought up five match points.
But Paszek served them all away - three from 0-40, two more on ad out - and after a few more tight games she won, 57 63 75, and lifted her biggest title.
"It was kind of weird, because the game before I slipped on the court, and I kind of hurt my Achilles and the ankle a bit, so I wasn't even thinking about the score or what was going on," Paszek said. "I kept going, won that game, then was just like, 'Okay, whatever, just keep playing and try to focus on every point.' To be honest, I didn't realize it was match point or I was 5-3 down. I was just enjoying being on the court, enjoying the atmosphere with this amazing crowd.
"I don't know what kept me going, how I kept going. I was dead tired in the third set. I could hardly move. I just gave all I had left, and it was just enough."
Paszek credited her coach for bringing out her passion and belief. "I always knew I'm a fighter and I always believed in myself, but I'd say my coach Andrei really helped me find my passion for the game and the belief in myself again. Because in practice everything has been working and it was just a matter of getting that aggression and pleasure again. It just all fit together this week."
Paszek now has three WTA titles to her name, her first two coming at International-level events at Portoroz in 2006 and Québec City in 2010. This one in Eastbourne is the biggest one - but not just because of tournament size.
"First of all it's special to win a title on grass, one of my favorite surfaces, and secondly in front of the family," Paszek said. "My godparents live here, and my dad came in from London this morning, which was a surprise for me. And people I've known since I'm like two years old. My mom and brother watched on TV.
"The feelings, I cannot describe them. I was sitting on the couch at home a week ago, drive from Birmingham, played a horrible match there, no confidence. I was like, 'Just try to get at least one win under your belt before Wimbledon.' My godfather was joking, he's like, 'You're going to bring me this cup home.'
"I haven't even seen him yet. He's going to be over the moon."
Paszek has a first round match at Wimbledon with Caroline Wozniacki. "Caroline's a tough opponent, former World No.1, amazing competitor - she doesn't give you a free point. So from tomorrow I will just try to do my work with Andrei, adapt my game to the courts and atmosphere of a Grand Slam again, and we will see. I will just enjoy every moment and try my best there.
"We've known each other since we were like 10. I have a picture. We played when we were Under 12 or something like that. On tour she has beaten me once - that was the only time we played, I think. But in juniors many times."
Wozniacki and Paszek did play just once, with Wozniacki winning.
The 24-year-old Kerber is now an even 2-2 in her career in WTA finals.
"Tamira was playing very well in the important moments, and also when I had the match points, so I couldn't do anything. Well done to her," Kerber said.
"It's okay, though. It was a great practice week. I had a lot of great matches, so now I'm ready for Wimbledon. Okay I lost today, but still I was in the final. And it was a good match. I did everything I could today, she was just better."
The doubles final saw No.4 seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez beat No.1 seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond by retirement after taking the first set, 6-4, when Huber had to stop due to a thigh injury. The Spaniards took home their 10th WTA doubles title together.