MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Elise Mertens secured her sixth career WTA title when she made light work of experienced Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-4 6-1 to win the Gippsland Trophy Australian Open warm-up tournament on Sunday.
The world number 20, who was handed her final spot when Naomi Osaka withdrew from their semi-final with injury, simply dominated the short contest from the baseline on Margaret Court Arena.
World number 94 Kanepi, playing in her first final since 2013, had a couple of tough three-setters earlier in the tournament after coming out of quarantine and struggled to keep up with the pace set by her opponent.
Two breaks were enough for Mertens to seal the first set and she raced away with the second as 35-year-old Kanepi’s error-count rose, the Belgian sealing the title with her sixth ace.
Mertens, who has won more WTA matches than any other player since the tour resumed in August after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said the title triumph would give her a big confidence boost heading into the Australian Open.
The 25-year-old, who lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 semi-finals at Melbourne Park, is 18th seed for the Grand Slam and faces Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the first round on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)