Tears of joy and relief came down Margarita Gasparyan's face after she defeated Anastasia Potapova 6-2 6-1 to win the Tashkent title, three years after her maiden success in Baku. World No.299 Gasparyan, who underwent three knee surgeries in the last couple of years, became the lowest-ranked WTA champion after Angelique Widjaja, who was World No.579 when she won Bali in 2001.
Last May, she was still ranked outside the Top 1000, next week she will return to the Top 200 for the first time since January 2017 at No.139. Potapova had no more resources to spend in the first all-Russian WTA final since Elena Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova at Indian Wells 2017, the second in Tashkent following Alla Kudryavtseva's defeat of Vesnina in 2010.
Gasparyan, who lost in straight sets in their previous meeting, in the first round of the ITF $100,000 event in Khimki this May, played alongside Potapova in the doubles tournament: they reached the semifinals in their first event together.
Gasparyan maintained her perfect record in WTA finals after her 2015 title-run in Baku. Potapova, on the contrary, delayed her first win after she lost at the Moscow River Cup in July to Olga Danilovic in the first title-match contested by two players ranked outside the Top 100 this year.
Next week, both the Moscow finalists will join Anisimova as the 2001-players into the Top 100. Potapova, who won her first ever pro final, an ITF event in Curitiba in March 2017 over Anisimova, has now lost five title-matches in a row at all levels.
The Russian sustained a career-threatening knee injury in 2016 which took her off the tour for more than 15 months. Prior to the injury, she defeated then No.19 Karolina Pliskova for her second career Top 20 win (2-7 overall) at 2016 Doha and also reached a career-high ranking of No.41 on February 15, 2016.
This year she made her maiden WTA tour level main draw appearance in over two years at Nanchang, advancing to the Round 16 (l. Zhang). Gasparyan, who plays with a one-handed backhand as she always wanted to do despite she grew up playing with a two-handed backhand, but switched at age 12 when she was big enough to do so, had made her comeback at 2017 Kremlin Cup (fell in qualifying).
Grown up with Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova as her idols, member of victorious Junior Fed Cup in 2010 for Russia alongside Gavrilova, Gasparyan finished 2016 ranked No.115 mostly due to injury preventing her from finishing the second half of that season.
The title in Baku over Tig helped her to complete the first Top 100 season in 2015. Entering tournament, she had only one win vs. Top 100 player to her name (d. No.96 Allertova at $100k ITF/Trnava-SVK in 2015).