Mertens defends title to make history

13 January 2018, by Leigh Rogers

Elise Mertens is the Hobart International 2018 champion and becomes the first player in the tournament’s 25-year history to win the singles title twice.

The 22-year-old from Belgium defended her title with a 6-1 4-6 6-3 win over Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu in challenging conditions in today’s final.

Rained caused havoc, with four rain delays meaning the match finished more than eight hours after it started.

The first rain delay came after only four games, when Mertens was leading 3-1.

The Belgian returned after a near two-hour break to quickly wrap up the first set 6-1. But on serve in the second set at 2-1, the rain returned.

After another near two-hour delay, it was Buzarnescu who took charge of the match. The 29-year-old contesting her first WTA-level final broke in the ninth game of the second set and served it out to level the match at one set-all.

It had been 15 years since a Hobart International singles final had gone to three sets, and the crowd that had braved the conditions were treated to some quality shot-making from both players.

Mertens showed her class in the deciding set, streaking ahead to 5-2. The world No.36 had two championship points on the Buzarnescu serve, but couldn’t convert. At deuce, play was suspended due to rain once again.

Buzarnescu saved two more championship points on serve when play resumed, before Mertens served out victory.

“It’s amazing to defend a title and I’m really happy I did,” Mertens said.

“It’s been a wonderful week.”

Buzarnescu, who at age 29 will enter the world’s top 50 rankings for the first time next week, hopes her late-career breakthrough inspires others to never give up on their dreams.

“No matter what happens you can still do it if you really believe,” she said. “If you have the right people next to you, no matter the age and I just hope I can be an example for other people at the same time.”

Mertens completed a Hobart International sweep, returning to Centre Court alongside Dutch partner Demi Schuurs to win the doubles title.

The third-seeded pair defeated fourth seeds Lyudmyla Kichenok and Makoto Ninomiya 6-2 6-2.

Mertens becomes the second player to scoop both the Hobart International singles and doubles titles in a year, matching Chinese player Zheng Jie’s effort in 2005.