It’s been a long day at work for Vandeweghe, the 2018 US Open doubles champion. The extra two sets in doubles, topped with a tie-break where Vandeweghe served for the crucial point, added another 1:16 to the Californian’s Thoreauville timecard.
No wonder, with the shadows of the surrounding oak and pine trees covering the pitch at the end of the day, a smiling Vandeweghe needed a brief healing touch from a trainer to her legs before stepping nimbly off the sidelines for the awards ceremony.
As Vandeweghe made his way to the showers and a late-night flight to Vancouver for her next tournament (game starts Tuesday), a visitor asked what the day’s two titles meant to her.
“Ah,” said the 6-footer with the thud, “slept well.”
Vandeweghe bagged $20,000 for the two titles, three quarters of that for the singles win. Perhaps most importantly, the singles title also earned her 160 WTA points, which will take her up a few notches in the world rankings released on Monday.
Vandeweghe worked her way back from a series of injuries that began to significantly disrupt her career in 2018, arriving here at a low WTA rank of 192. Not counting the doubles win at Wimbledon in 2018, she hadn’t won a doubles title since 2017 (at Stanford). Her last singles title came at the Libema Open 2016 in the Netherlands.
“Winning is great,” said Vandeweghe, sounding both relieved and excited at the end of the day. “I mean you can’t have (sic) confidence to come out of here and take two titles.”
After that career-best 9th place finish in January 2018, Vandeweghe began to slide down the pecking order dramatically when a foot/ankle injury appeared out of nowhere at Wimbledon this summer. She eventually had to stop tournament play for about eight months through 2019, then lost further ground in 2020 when a pot exploded in her hands in a freak kitchen accident, severed a pair of ligaments and caused nerve damage in her left pinky finger.
Their aim now is to regain their status among the best in the world, put pressure on the game’s elite and play in the second week of the four Grand Slam events. All of which makes that 160 WTA points as valuable a catch as, say, an 8-pound Lobstah right now.
“I want to be in the top 100, hopefully by the Australian Open,” said Vandeweghe, thinking of next season’s first Grand Slam event, “and just keep going back to where I used to be – that’s the goal .”
As far as she can remember, it was the first time in her career since she turned pro in 2006 at the age of 14 that she won two titles on the same day.
“Probably never,” she said, swaying slightly, “maybe ITF [International Tennis Federation]I don’t know, I can’t remember when.”
Vandeweghe broke left-hander Pera, who had freshly won two European titles, in games seven and ninth of the opening set to finish the 6-3 win in a clean 29 minutes. A power server and a confident baseline hitter, she kept Pera on the baseline for the most part. It dampened any advantage Pera could have gained from her advantage in agility and fitness.
“My game is definitely to hit deep and through the court,” noted Vandeweghe, “and show my presence to the opponent. I thought I did well enough today and tried to do it as consistently as possible so she never felt like she could breathe.”
But the brave Pera delivered the only break in set number two, game 11, and prevailed in an 18-point game that lasted 13 minutes overall – almost half of what was needed for the first set. Pera secured the win 7-5 with her next service game, a set that lasted 1:12.
Set #3 added another hour and both players showed their fatigue.
“Like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed,” remarked Vandeweghe’s coach Luke Jensen, who was on the sidelines for both titles. “It could easily have gone either way. In the end they were both gunned down fighters.”
Vandeweghe scored the first break and went 3-1 in the third. Pera lost the 22nd point of the game, sailing a forehand wide from the baseline.
Vandeweghe then fell apart in the next game and their lead fell to 3-2, but then Pera broke and stumbled to a 4-2 deficit in the next game. Vandeweghe also broke for the second time in a row.
The end came with Pera on serve in a 10th game where she didn’t score. nothing left
“It’s just unbelievable,” mused Vandeweghe. “I mean, from not being able to walk in 2018 to holding a trophy so many years later. . . It’s incredible. All adversity. . . There is always something good to be found at the end of the tunnel.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected].