(Reuters) – France’s Fiona Ferro became the first WTA champion in five months on Sunday as she overpowered Anett Kontaveit 6-2 7-5 to win the Palermo Ladies Open, the first Tour event to be staged since the COVID-19 epidemic shut down the sport.
Ferro went 10 matches unbeaten in regional exhibition events after the Tour was suspended in March, and continued to gather further momentum with five more wins in Palermo this week as major tennis returned in the Sicilian capital.
“I think it was my best match of the week,” the 23-year-old Ferro said after landing the second title of her career with a dominant display. “I was feeling relaxed… I don’t know why because it was a final! I wasn’t really feeling pressure.”
Several exhibition events have taken place globally since the sport was halted in early March due to the pandemic but the women’s claycourt tournament in Palermo was the first across both the elite WTA and ATP tours in five months.
There were strict health protocols, including limited number of fans and no handshakes between players after the match.
Players and officials underwent COVID-19 tests every four days and one player who tested positive pulled out of the tournament last weekend.
“I had a good intensity throughout the whole match, I didn’t miss a lot, made a lot of winners, so I’m really happy to have the trophy with me,” said the Belgian-born Ferro.
She struck 51 winners and broke Kontaveit’s serve five times in a clinical display as she clinched the title on her second match point.
The result ensures Ferro will make her world top-50 debut at number 44 when the latest WTA rankings are released on Monday.
Estonia’s Kontaveit, ranked 22nd, has now lost five of the six finals she has contested.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ian Chadband)