While all the spotlights regarding the action in WTA Tour were focused on Madrid, some who did not reach out the second week of the ongoing WTA 1000 tournament, decided to pick up some points and clay match practice in two WTA 125 challenger events being played in Saint Malo and Reus.
The Spanish destination has hosted a really high quality field, as 10 out of 32 main draw players were ranked in the top 100 of the WTA rankings. While the top seed Jil Teichmann got eliminated in quarterfinals, the second seed Sorana Cirstea has succeded well by advancing into Sunday's final without losing a single set, prevailing against really solid players in her half of the draw - Aliona Bolsova, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 7th seed Caty Mcnally and 3rd seed Lauren Davis.
Second finalist was quite a surprise, as Elizabeth Mandlik managed to advance into the final despite starting the tournament from qualifying. Only the qualies and first round match were those, where the American was rated as the pre-match favorite. Mandlik made upsets on higher rated opponents starting from the round of 16, defeating Jasmine Paolini, Nuria Parrizas Diaz and Dayana Yastremska, being rated with odds 3.25, 3.81 and 3.31 respectively before each of those matches, all of them ended up in three sets.
Same as in previous rounds, the current world's number 147 was a pre-match underdog, as Sorana Cirstea was rated with an odd 1.22 to be a condifent favorite ahead of Sunday's final. The opening set could prove this, as the recent Miami Open semifinalist has needed just 27 minutes to clinch it with a score 6-1. Cirstea was dominant and more fresh, considering much less time needed to spend on court in a goal to reach out the final. Despite this, second set brought a momentum switch, as the American started brilliantly, leading 4-0 after flawless start, losing just 2 single points in first 4 games. Mandlik could close the set in 8th game, but she wasted 2 setpoints within Cirstea's serve. The Romanian managed to come back level with a break in following game, but Mandlik regained her advantage in 10th game and forced the decider.
The third set was an absolute thriller. Cirstea moved up front after the break in 3rd game, but Mandlik responded great, breaking her opponent twice and winning 4 games in a row, being 5-2 up. The American could serve for the match in 9th game, but Cirstea broken back, simillary as in previous set. Another big chance for the American showed up in 10th game, when her more experienced opponent was serving to stay alive in the match. Mandlik created the breakpoint, which was the first matchpoint as well. Cirstea cleared the danger and forced the decisive tiebreak, which got dominated by the current world's number 44, who won it 7-1 and took the title after an exciting final. It is the third most valuable title in Cirstea's career and first one since April 2021, when the Romanian won the WTA 250 in Istanbul.
Both the finalists capitalize on their deep run in Catalunya. Cirstea moves up 10 spots to advance into 34th place in tomorrow's WTA rankings. Elizabeth Mandlik gains 30 places to reach out her new career's high 117th place on Monday.