Qualifier crowned women’s singles champion at VanOpen, Lestienne wins men’s title

Valentini Grammatikopoulou returns a shot to Elise Mertens, of Belgium, during the second round of the US Open tennis championships, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

Constant Lestienne started like he had a flight to catch on Sunday, but despite breezing through the first set he had to grind almost two hours to beat fellow Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech to win the men’s singles title at the Odlum Brown VanOpen.

The 30-year-old Lestienne, the event’s fifth seed, defeated the third-seeded Rinderknech 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in an ATP Challenger final that took one hour 51 minutes to complete at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver.

Lestienne advanced to the final with a tough win over Ugo Humbert of France in Saturday’s semifinal, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The 27-year-old Rinderknech outlasted Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday’s later semifinal.

“Playing a countryman is happening a lot of times so now I’m a little more used to it,” Lestienne said after beating Rinderknech. “Sometimes when you know the guy pretty well, it’s a bit more complicated because you have to focus only on the game.

“The match with Arthur was tough, we know each other, we’re friends and it’s never easy to play against each other. You have to forget that you are friends and try to give your best, so today it went to me, it was really tight and maybe the next one will go to Arthur, he’s a good player.”

With the win in Vancouver, Lestienne has now reached the final in four of five tournaments since Wimbledon in June and has the most match wins on the ATP Challenger Tour with a 38-16 record, including coming out on top in 19 of his last 21 matches.

On the women’s side, Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece completed her qualifier-to-champion Cinderella story as the 25-year-old bounced second-seeded Lucia Bronzetti of Italy in the women’s singles WTA 125K final 6-2, 6-4.

Grammatikopoulou needed one hour and 45 minutes to win her semifinal against American Emma Navarro 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, while Bronzetti defeated Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-2, 6-2.

“It feels very special because I came without a coach and I had a lot of support from my friends here. I enjoyed Vancouver so much that in the end, I was really relaxed playing tennis,” said Grammatikopoulou.

“This year (has been) really tough, I had a lot of anxiety and depression because when you don’t have results, it really affects your life and on the court as well.”

The fact that the Odlum Brown VanOpen is a combined WTA 125 and ATP Challenger Tour event supplied Grammatikopoulou with the opportunity to have a brush with one of her tennis heroes and inspire her to the biggest win of her career.

“In the second match of qualifying, one of my favourite players came to support me,” Grammatikopoulou said. “I was totally in seventh heaven because he is my favourite player of all time — Gilles Simon — I am so in love with him!

“I was very, very happy that he came to watch — maybe he gave me some extra energy when I played.”

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