Riske remains unstoppable, lifts Upper Austria Ladies Linz trophy

Victory never tasted so sweet for Alison Riske. Two years removed from her most recent WTA Tour title, the 31-year-old US-American lifted a trophy once again, prevailing at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz on Friday.

Elated and emotional, Riske raised her arms in triumph as the No. 8 seed needed two hours and 25 minutes to dismiss Romanian lucky loser Jaqueline Cristian 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a highly entertaining final.

In front of packed stands at the TipsArena, the former World No. 18 capitalized on six of her 16 break-point chances, turning in a vintage Riske performance predicated on great returns and depth off her baseline shots.

After losing eight of her previous nine finals and following her triumphs at the 2014 Tianjin Open as well as at s’Hertogenbosch in 2019, Riske captured her third career title on the WTA Tour. The World No. 73 didn’t drop a set en route to the championship match, edging out Mona Barthel of Germany, Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, Wang Xinyu of China and her compatriot Danielle Collins.

“I would like to thank the crowd. You were truly unbelievable,” Riske said during the on-court ceremony. “It was special to play in front of a packed crowd. That is something we haven’t had for so long. I am so grateful for the support. It was a first-class event.”

Riske earned €23,548 in prize money and pocketed 280 WTA Ranking points.

Cristian: From lucky loser to runner-up

Cristian’s journey in Linz almost ended before the main draw of the WTA Tour 250 tournament began. Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko beat the 23-year-old in three sets in the final of qualifying.

But Sorana Cirstea and Viktorija Golubic withdrew, Cristian entered the main draw as a lucky loser and reached her first WTA final. The World No. 100 had battled past Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia, benefited from the retirement of Rebecca Peterson from Sweden, ousted No. 4 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and received a walkover from second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep.

“It was a great week, I am very positive on ending my season with this final,” Cristian said. The Bucharest native took away €13,224 in prize money as well as 180 WTA Ranking points.

Russians crowned doubles champions

Earlier in the day, Natela Dzalamidze and Kamilla Rakhimova took the doubles title. The third-seeded Russians defeated the all-Chinese combination of Wang Xinyu and Zheng Saisai 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 17 minutes.

Organizers with a positive week

"It was a very turbulent and exciting event,” tournament director Sandra Reichel said on Friday. “After last year’s tournament behind closed doors, COVID-19 was a big topic again this year.”

Tennis was of course in the foreground at Austria's most important women's sports event. "From a sporting point of view, I'm very happy that Emma Raducanu, Simona Halep and Danielle Collins were here. We saw great matches at a very high level," analysed Reichel. She also revealed which player she would like to see in Linz: "Naomi Osaka.”

Regarding the future of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, Reichel added: “There are a few open questions, such as the date or the location due to the construction site in the stadium next door. We should know more in January. We are very happy that we were able to hold the tournament under all these circumstances. For the WTA, the visitors, the players as well as for our partners and sponsors.”