ASHLAND, Ky. — Ellen Perez felt bad for her Australian compatriot but had to be pleased for herself.
Hungry for a singles title after seven runner-up finishes dating back to August of 2016, Perez defeated Zoe Hives 6-2, 3-2 (retired) for the championship of the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women’s Tennis Classic.
It came on a sweltering Sunday afternoon at the Ashland Tennis Center.
Hives took a medical timeout following the third game of the second set. She returned to the court for two more games before bowing out due to illness.
“Zoe’s a really good friend,” Perez said of her sometime training partner. “I never like to win by withdrawal. I feel I was playing good tennis. It was just an unfortunate end.”
Perez, at 23 a year older than Hives, turned in a strong performance in the matchup between the tournament’s seventh and eighth seeds, respectively.
The left-hander from the town of Shellharbour ripped several winners, one of them a bullet down the line to begin her run of four consecutive games to close the first set.
“I felt through the week I got better,” said Perez, a former college All-American at Georgia. “My forehand on the run and cross-court shots really helped.”
She smiled with a sense of relief after ending her dry spell in title matches. Last year, Perez was runner-up in five International Tennis Federation finals in her home country — one coming against Hives.
“This feels really good,” Perez said. “It was a bit of a running joke that I was always the bridesmaid. When will you get to be the bride?”