Caitlin Whoriskey is unlikely to forget her first ever USTA Pro Circuit singles championship.
Her gritty display during a spectacular second set sealed a dynamic double for the Cape Cod native. A day after Whoriskey and playing partner Sonja Molnar captured the doubles championship, Whoriskey outlasted No. 1 seed Elise Mertens 6-4, 7-6 to win the ITF Head/First Federal $10,000 tournament at Van Der Meer Tennis Club.
Just like the doubles final the previous day, the win did not come easily for the 26-year-old American, who battled the relentless Belgian and her own frustration throughout a back-and-forth second set. Already up after a relatively straightforward first-set win, Whoriskey found herself locked at 4-4, then 5-5, and finally in a tiebreaker.
"I knew that it's only seven points, and if I end up losing, I still have one more set," Whoriskey said. "I tried not to think about it too much."
Whoriskey said at the time, she was doing her best not to look at the overall picture of the set, during which she struggled with a series of unforced errors. At times, she became visibly frustrated, even slamming her racket to the ground after missing an opportunity to break Mertens' serve.
Ultimately, her experience gave her a lift, as she tried to adjust her game and open things up for her more powerful forehand. For much of the second set, her more controlled, if less overwhelming, backhand kept points alive and bought time for a better shot or a Mertens error.
"I had a great week," Mertens said. "Of course every match is hard. Today she was better than me. It was a difficult game, but I can't complain."
The 18-year-old had come back from a one-set deficit in the semifinal, but two times in two days turned out to be too much to ask. An enthusiastic crowd applauded both competitors as the match escalated, twisted and turned its way to a thrilling finish.
For Whoriskey, this is the first time she's left a singles final satisfied in a few years. She had finished second in her five previous finals appearances, and was excited to finally claim a winner's check. On Saturday, she admitted she had begun to consider how much longer she would play tennis. After Sunday's match, she felt rejuvenated.
"I think I gave myself a good head start on the summer," Whoriskey said. "Still have to see where it goes. This makes it a little more enjoyable."