The two top seeds clashed in the Upper Austria Ladies Linz final – Barbora Strycova was chasing a first title for six years, while Magdalena Rybarikova was on her own personal journey to win what would have been her first title since Washington DC in 2013.
It was a breath of fresh air to see two players look for different ways to construct a point, demonstrating that if Plan A doesn’t work, they could succeed at Plan B or even Plan C. That really has been the case for Strycova all week as she’s prevailed from very challenging situations in order to get the victory.
This period of the season is a difficult time for all of the players. There are 44 weeks on the WTA calendar and as the season draws to a close a lot of the players struggle to play at their peak. The two Linz finalists battled through their own respective injuries, but it was Strycova who took the most important point, in the end.
Strycova had another fast start. She was fairly untroubled on serve for the majority of the final. The Czech took the first set 6-4, with the break in the first game of the match proving to be the most significant game. Rybarikova’s level seemed to fade dramatically at the beginning of the second set as she struggled to overcome the injury that was clearly bothering her and clearly preventing her from giving her absolute best.
Strycova raced into a 5-0 lead in the second, but Rybarikova dropped her shoulders, played loosely and decided that she no longer cared about the consequences of her groundstrokes. She had nothing to lose at that point. We witnessed a late resurgence, where Rybarikova broke for 1-5, but Strycova was the one with her arms aloft as she brought home her 2nd ever WTA title. The Linz winner talked openly about how she was feeling when she first served for the match:
“I was so nervous. I was trying to tell myself ‘Just the serve. Just the serve’ and I could not put one first serve into the court. I realised I was a little bit more nervous than I should be. I kept saying to myself that it is just tennis, but I am very relieved that I did that as you never know what can happen if she wins two games in a row for 5-2.”
It’s the first trophy that Strycova has won with her longtime coach Tomas Krupa and she confirmed how special it is for Team Strycova to get that 1st title since Quebec:
“It is very special for me because we had some situations where I felt like this is the coach I really want to win a trophy with and we work hard and he is really pushing me to my limits. I really wanted to win for him and for us as a team.”
The tennis this week has been pleasing on the eye. We’ve seen lots of different styles and approaches to top level tennis and Strycova noted how she and Rybarikova play a different but effective brand of tennis than some of the other women on tour:
“We do not have so much power. Magda is so skinny and I am so small but we do have the variation and the different game. You do not see that very often any more on the WTA.”
I think this particular final sends the right message in the fact that you do not have to be the tallest, strongest player in the world and that there are other ways to win points and to win matches and Strycova and Rybarikova are two fine examples of that.
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