Donna Vekic defeated Johanna Konta in a gripping three-set encounter to win her second WTA title. The 20-year-old Croat recovered from a set down to defeat the top seed 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5, and break British hearts.
The Croat won late in the third set for the second day in a row, after defeating fifth seed Lucie Safarova in her semi-final. The Elena Baltacha Trophy – dedicated to the late Elena Baltacha – is the second WTA trophy in her cabinet after she won the Malaysian Open in 2014.
World #8 Johanna Konta had looked imperious on her way to the final, not dropping a set. On the day though she struggled to keep pace with the powerful serving and groundstrokes of her 20-year-old opponent, eventually losing in just under two and a half hours.
Johanna Konta marches through opening set
Nerves were evident at the start of the match for Donna Vekic as she served two double faults and was broken to love. Johanna Konta was not playing at her free-flowing best but errors from Vekic allowed her to move ahead relatively effortlessly.
Despite hitting 16 aces in her previous match against Lucie Safarova, Vekic serve was visibly wayward. Double faults continued to flow from her racket and, coupled with Konta’s superb backhand depth, the 20-year-old was broken for a second time.
Konta sealed the first set after a superb service game that saw her hold serve to love and move within one set of the Nottingham title.
Donna Vekic fights back in second set
Vekic put up a supreme fight in her three set semi-final victory over Lucie Safarova and refused to go down without a fight. Beginning to settle in to the occasion, Vekic was the first to strike in the second set. A sloppy game from Konta was punished and Vekic broke for a 3-1 lead.
Konta fought back immediately, aided once again by Vekic’s poor serving and increasing frustrations surrounding some of the line-calls. Both called their coaches onto court and that seemed to restore normality, with both players holding their next few games.
Vekic had a set point opportunity at 5-4 but failed to capitalise, pushing a forehand long to her obvious frustration. The Brit was able to fend off the challenge in that game and eventually hold.
There was drama at the start of the eleventh game in the second set. The long week had seen plenty of wear-and-tear on centre court and Johanna Konta was fuming at a decision which she was adamant hit chalk behind the line, rather than on the line itself. Cries of “out, out” from the Nottingham crowd did nothing to sway umpire, Juan Zhang’s decision.
Chances came again for Vekic whose powerful hitting saw her create two set points. Two forehands dumped in the net alieviated the threat for Konta who held to force a second set tie-break.
Vekic took control of the tie-break after missing a couple of early chances, securing the mini-break and earning herself three set points. The 20-year-old needed just one opportunity, taking the set and forcing the match into a decider.
Donna Vekic battles her way to the title
At the start of the third set the momentum had clearly swung in Vekic’s favour. Konta, irate by another controversial line-call, was broken in the opening game as the Croat’s huge hitting continued to cause her all manner of problems.
For the next few games Konta was hanging on, struggling to regain her focus. Sadly for Vekic though, she could not keep that level up, and a weary looking service game littered with errors saw the Brit find the break back.
This proved to be the catalyst that reignited Konta’s composure, and she held comfortably to force Vekic to serve to stay in the match. Vekic did not waiver, some big serving bringing the match to 5-5.
It was Vekic that struck the vital blow, breaking at the business end of the set to give her a chance to serve for the set. Fighting off the nerves, the 20-year-old sealed the title as a Konta groundstroke landed just long.