Arantxa Rus has clinched her maiden WTA Tour title by lifting the trophy of the 2023 Hamburg European Open. In front of a sold-out crowd at the Rothenbaum Tennis Stadium, the No. 7 seed of the WTA 250 clay-court event defeated 19-year-old German wild card entry Noma Noha Akugue 6-0, 7-6(3) in Saturday’s singles final.
Both players were competing in their first tour-level final with Noha Akugue having a nervy start while Rus was wide awake right from the beginning. The 32-year-old from the Netherlands gained an early break and kept the momentum to secure the first set in only 25 minutes.
Then, in a more competitive second set featuring two breaks on each side, Rus needed to go to the tie-break. However, she proved to be the more solid player in the end and secured the title victory in one hour and 35 minutes.
Rus: “It was the perfect week for me!”
“The first set went very fast, but in the second it was a fight from both of us,” said. Rus, who became the oldest first-time WTA title winner in the last 40 years and the oldest first-time finalist at a WTA Tour tournament in 17 years.
Rus added: “The atmosphere was great, although I knew most of the people would support her. It’s a very nice court here. A lot of spectators are coming out. The hotel is very nice, everything is close by each other. It makes it very easy for the players. Of course, when you are winning, the longer you stay here, the more you enjoy it. It was the perfect week for me.”
World No. 60 Rus pocketed €29,760 in prize money as well as 280 WTA Ranking points. She dedicated the title to her father, who passed away four months ago.
Meanwhile, Noha Akugue, who captured her maiden title on the Pro Circuit in Cairo, Egypt last year, remained upbeat. “I am very proud of myself, and I hope that I can continue like this,” she said. “Now, I am going to enjoy a few days off before competing in a WTA 125 event in Poland followed by the tournaments in America.”
Danilina/Panova triumph in doubles
Earlier on Center Court, Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Alexandra Panova captured the doubles title. The top seeds, who dropped just one set en route to the championship match, defeated second favourites Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic and US-American Angela Kulikov 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 13 minutes.
“Thanks for coming out, you guys were amazing. It was an enjoyable final. This was my first time in Hamburg. It was amazing event, one of the best on the tour,” said Danilina during the trophy ceremony.
“It was a pleasure to play here,” added Panova, who thanked tournament director Sandra Reichel in German for organizing the event.
By winning their first team title, Danilina and Panova split €10,820 in prize money and earned 280 WTA Doubles Ranking points.
Hingis back in Hamburg
Two-time Hamburg singles champion Martina Hingis (1998 and 2000) returned to the Rothenbaum Tennis Complex to take part in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Asked about her Hamburg memories, Hingis said: “I played my first final on the WTA Tour here and got a lesson from Conchita Martinez. However, I was able to win the doubles title alongside Gigi Fernandez. I have always loved Hamburg. I often went into the city and to the water. I have many fond memories of the tournament.”
Hingis’ list of achievements is staggering. The “Swiss Miss” claimed a total of five Grand Slam singles titles (three Australian Opens, one Wimbledon, one US Open) and 13 Grand Slam doubles crowns. In 1997, she achieved the rare feat of winning Australian Open titles in singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.