The WTA Pattaya City Open has continuously grown in stature since the maiden edition in 1991. It was upgraded to an International event in 2009 and attracts a star-studded line up including some of the best women’s tennis players in the world to Thailand every February.
Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova won the championship in 2014 to claim her first title in almost four years. The 25-year-old defeated Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (7) in one hour and 36 minutes in the final. But despite what the straight sets victory may suggest, it was not a one-sided affair by any means.
After the victory, Makarova said:
"I’m very happy because today was a tough match. She was playing really great tennis. She was serving really good so I needed to be very focused on my returns."
Pliskova was the World No. 66 at the time and she made the fourth seed work hard for the championship. The Czech made her mark in her opening service game, when she fired down an amazing six aces, thereby showing Makarova that that part of her game was a weapon to be feared. But, regardless of all of the numerous free points off serve she obtained, Pliskova still faced two break points. She was lucky that Makarova failed to capitalise and the Czech finally held to level the score at 1-1.
Pliskova was given the opportunity to break the Makarova serve in the following game, but was unable to convert as both players held their next few service games respectively. It was in the eighth game however, when Makarova got the only break of the match; the key for her to claim the championship. 21-year-old Pliskova overhit a forehand, which handed Makarova the 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the set, in which she did.
The second set was an even tighter contest. Pliskova once again had the opportunity to break early and climb away to a 4-2 lead, but in similar fashion to the first set, the left-hander was unable to convert. The score was soon level at 6-6 and the set was to be decided in a tiebreaker.
Makarova sped to a 5-2 lead and it looked like the match was well within her grasp at that stage. But in another twist of events, Pliskova staged a remarkable comeback and clinched the next four points in a row. A mistimed smash, dumped into the net by Makarova set up a set point for her opponent. But the Czech, bundled with nerves, produced her only double fault of the match at the worst possible timing and therefore failed to serve out the set.
However, another opening appeared for Pliskova a few minutes later at 7-6 as the Czech had a second opportunity to force the match into a decider. But a determined Makarova held on and the left-hander hit a backhand into the net at 7-8, which handed the Russian the championship.
Pliskova only had praise for her opponent: “I think she played better than me the whole match. I was just trying to stay in the match and trying to fight. What happened in my last matches that I won, from two match points down and 0-3 in the third, I was hoping that this could happen again. But it didn’t,” she said after the match.
Makarova was initially angry with herself for giving up the 5-2 lead and letting the tiebreak get so close, but was obviously happy to come away with the victory:
"I was angry a little bit because she served twice really good and she returned just on the line and then it was 5-5. Then I missed a pretty easy ball (the smash). It got tighter and tighter and she had set point again. I just had to be focused and get everything in and try to be as aggressive as I could," she said.
The championship was Makarova’s second of her career after she had also won in Eastbourne on grass in 2010. It is likely the current World No. 23 will return to defend her title in 2015 as the tournament celebrates its 24th anniversary. It one of the longest running tournaments on the WTA calendar and the oldest women’s professional sporting event in South East Asia.
The 2015 WTA Pattaya Open will be played from the 9 February 2015 – 15 February 2015.