Friedsam proves a very worthy Shrewsbury champion

Anna-Lena Friedsam, the German comeback star, admitted winning her first title since recovering from injury was an emotional moment after being crowned Aegon GB Pro-Series champion at The Shrewsbury Club.

Champion Anna-Lena Friedsam celebrates her victory at The Shrewsbury Club. Photo: Richard Dawson Photography
Champion Anna-Lena Friedsam celebrates her victory at The Shrewsbury Club. Photo: Richard Dawson Photography

Friedsam turned on the style to beat top seed Lesley Kerkhove 6-4, 6-2 in just over an hour in front of a full house at the Sundorne Road venue on Saturday afternoon.

She becomes the third German champion of the popular annual Shrewsbury women’s tournament, held in association with local company Morris & Co Homes, after Mona Barthel in 2011 and Annika Beck the following year.

Victory was all the more special for Friedsam, ranked as high as 45 in the world in August 2016, having only recently returned to competitive action following a long injury-enforced absence.

Her Shrewsbury success was even more impressive considering she had to come through two qualifying rounds to take her place in the main draw – eventually recording seven victories in as many days to emerge as a very worthy winner of the $25,000 tournament.

“I’m really happy,” said Friedsam. “I had seven matches from qualifying to the title now. I played some good tennis, I’ve had tough matches of course, but in the end I played good tennis and I’m very proud.”

The 23-year-old, who was given a tremendous ovation by local tennis fans, added: “It is an emotional tournament for me because it’s my first title after my injury and I just love tennis so much.

“I knew what I have gone through and to be back on court it’s just amazing to be back and to play again.”

Friedsam enjoyed the occasion and playing in front of such a big Shrewsbury crowd: “It’s so nice to play tournaments with a crowd,” she stressed. “It’s a much better atmosphere and you feel more pushed. It’s amazing. The people are very friendly and I like it here.”

Friedsam is now looking forward to 2018, adding: “Of course, I look forward to it, but it’s still a long way to come back to the ranking I had. I will not put me under pressure, something like that. First of all I’m just happy to be back on court, to play again, and step by step.”

Friedsam lost the opening three games in the first set of the final to Dutch player Kerkhove, who is currently ranked 156 in the world, but recovered impressively to take it 6-4.

She then drove home her advantage in the second set to see it out 6-2, wrapping up victory inside 63 minutes.

Runner-up Kerkhove, who had not dropped a set in reaching the final, said: “I started good, but I didn’t play my best in the whole match – but I think she played really well. She didn’t miss any shots, so it was tough.”

Paying tribute to Friedsam, Kerkhove, 26, said: “| think she can be still top 100 again soon.”

Despite the result, Kerkhove insisted she had enjoyed her week in Shrewsbury and reaching the final: “They did a really nice final,” she said of the occasion. “It’s really special for a $25,000 tournament to have this, so I really enjoyed it.”

Richard Joyner, the tournament director, thanked The Shrewsbury Club for staging such a successful tournament.

He said: “It’s been a fantastic week. The players have really enjoyed it and I’d like to think the spectators, particularly today with a full house, will have as well.

“There was a lot of entertainment as well as the match itself and hopefully everyone’s had a good day.

“I know the players certainly will have, particularly Anna-Lena getting the title on her road back to recovery from injury. You could see how emotional she was at the end, what it means to her, with everything that she’s gone through.”

Dave Courteen, the managing director of The Shrewsbury Club, which has just enjoyed a £1.4 million refurbishment, was delighted with the support the event received from local tennis fans.

He added: “The biggest thing about this week’s tournament has been the fact we had sponsorship from Morris & Co Homes, which meant we were able to get a much better quality of players competing, as was reflected with the final.

“It was incredibly high-quality tennis and it’s amazing that we had somebody of the quality of Anna-Lena Friedsam playing here at Shrewsbury.

“I think in a year or so we will be seeing her probably pushing into the latter stages of the Grand Slams, I genuinely think she’s that good, so to have had her here at Shrewsbury is quite a coup.

“It’s been a great week and we once again had huge support from the town, the people that come out and support it, which is what makes the event so attractive to players.

“We really appreciate that as a club and we think we had about 500 people here for the final which is many as we’ve ever had. It’s been a phenomenal week and great fun.”

The tournament’s doubles final was an all-British clash with Freya Christie and Harriet Dart coming from a set down to beat Katie Swan and Maia Lumsden 3-6, 6-4, 10-6.

Professional tennis will return to The Shrewsbury Club with a $25,000 Pro-Series men’s tournament, which will start on February 11 next year.