Superstar Sonay Kartal hopes to continue her stunning run of form after triumphing in the UK Pro League Finals Week at the Shrewsbury Club against Freya Christie.
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In a near faultless performance, Kartal dropped just one game as she beat Christie – an opponent over 300 places above her in the world rankings – 6-0, 6-1 in just over an hour to capture the title and a lucrative £15,000 prize.
Kartal, 20, was one of the pre-tournament favourites having prevailed in Weeks 5, 6 and 7 of the UK Pro League, as well as winning the biggest title of her career to date at the W15 event in Antalya just a few weeks ago.
It has been a remarkable run of form for the south coast star – who was off court earlier in the year due to injury – but she did not have it all her own way in Shrewsbury this week.
A pool stage loss to Katie Stresnakova meant she only just edged her way into the knockout stages, though she beat Japanese wildcard Lily Miyazaki – an opponent 774 spots above her in the WTA rankings – before beating Beth Grey in yesterday’s semi-final.
The world No.989 continued to play tennis well above her ranking today, beating world No.628 Christie to win the second UK Pro League title, following in US Open champion Emma Raducanu’s 2020 footsteps.
Kartal was in fact a contemporary of Raducanu as a junior, beating her in six of their 11 meetings with clips of the two playing each other going viral after Raducanu’s US Open triumph.
Afterwards, she revealed that she had not hit the ball anywhere near as well during practice sessions building earlier today, saying: “I didn’t practice too well earlier so I was a little bit nervous coming out, but I just tried to forget the occasion and play my own game. I’ve had a lot of injuries in the past so I’ve really capitalised on the Pro League. You’re guaranteed five matches so the format for me has been really beneficial, and it’s something that I’m definitely going to continue on next year. I’m very grateful for all that’s been put on this year.
The highlights for me have been that I’ve managed to keep a pretty consistent game throughout this whole week. I did lose to Katie in the last round of the groups but I think I’ve taken some good match practice.
I’m off to Tunisia next week, so I’m really going to try and continue this form and bring it out there.”
Nine individual qualifying weeks across the 2021 season and around the UK had led to this week’s finals week in Shrewsbury, with nine automatic qualifiers and three wildcards in both the men’s and women’s draws.And as the Premier League of British tennis – and the only domestic competition for the country’s top professionals – with over half a million pounds of prize money up for grabs across the season, all the action was broadcast live on BT Sport, The Tennis Channel and UKproleague.tv, with Finals Week also broadcast live on free to air channel FreeSports (Freeview Channel 64 / Sky Channel 422 / Virgin Channel 553 / BT TV Channel 64 / TalkTalk Channel 64).
It was a disappointing afternoon for Christie, who could only hold on to her serve once and missed opportunities to break Kartal in the final game of the match.
However, having qualified in fifth position for Finals Week, there were still plenty of positives for her to take.
She said: “I think I’ve got to take a lot of positives from this week. It’s been a great week for me. I always love playing in Shrewsbury and I appreciate the crowd support. I really appreciate everyone who came out today.
“I’m hoping to do one or two more tournaments, hopefully some 25K events, but that just depends on scheduling. This might be the last tournament of the year for me.
“I think credit to Sonay today – I think she missed about one ball the whole match, so well played. I’ll have to take that one on the chin.”