(Reuters) - Andrea Petkovic survived a set point before steamrolling her way to an emphatic 7-5 6-2 victory over Jana Cepelova in the final of the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina on Sunday.
Petkovic, on the comeback trail from a string of injuries, used her powerful forehand to collect her third WTA title in a match that lasted 79 minutes on the green clay in Charleston.
“This is the biggest title I’ve ever won,” the tall 26-year-old Bosnian-born German told ESPN.
”I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence for the clay season. I was in big matches before my injuries but I never had the strength to do it.
”I doubt everything I do. I‘m such a perfectionist. I‘m very German (and) I throw tantrums and get really upset and grumpy.
“I am constantly having these thoughts in my head and they are eating me alive, so it’s been very rewarding the whole week and I‘m just so grateful.”
Petkovic’s career has been hampered by knee, back and ankle injuries, but she can compete with the best when healthy, as her world ranking of 10th at the end of 2011 proved.
But she did not have it all her own way against Slovakian Cepelova, who had a chance to win the first set but fired a forehand groundstroke into the net, a point that proved pivotal.
The match was evenly poised but 14th-seed Petkovic, buoyed by the reprieve, subsequently won the game on serve to tie the set at 5-5 and dominated thereafter.
She won eight consecutive games and raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set.
“When I was a set point down I was standing with my back against the wall and I told myself, this is not how you want to end this set,” continued Petkovic, whose father Zoran played tennis at the University of South Carolina in Columbia three decades ago.
”I started playing more aggressive and started moving better and then I shook off the nervousness and played fine in the end.
”Now, after all these injuries where I thought I was never going to be at my best again, I won this big title.
“It’s amazing how life goes sometimes. It really is a rollercoaster.”
Cepelova beat Serena Williams in the second round, but her first WTA final ended on a disappointing note.
Nonetheless, the 20-year-old gave notice of her potential with some brilliant shots, though she was more erratic than Petkovic.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry