The sensation caused by a bone bruise in Madison Brengle’s right foot was something like stepping on a nail, she said.
That meant there were countless proverbial nails to be stepped on in a grueling Koser Challenge final, but Brengle overcame the pain — and Lin Zhu, 6-4, 7-5 — and claimed her second straight Koser title.
“I’m tougher than I look,” a hobbled Brengle said afterward.
It’s an injury Brengle said she’s been dealing with for weeks, but it seemed to come to a head late in Sunday afternoon’s affair in Landisville at Hempfield Rec Center.
Brengle took a hard-fought first set that featured a few long games, but sprung out to a 5-1 lead over Zhu in the second set.
Then Zhu took over.
After giving Sophie Whittle a clinic on ball-striking in the semifinals, Zhu once again went on a run where she couldn’t miss.
She rallied to tie the second set at five games, all the while Brengle seemed to be slowing down.
Brengle struggled with her serve, her leverage sapped by her injury, and her mobility was visibly diminished as well.
“It was definitely hard to move a bit,” Brengle said. “She was hitting her spots, and she was hitting them very well. So I just had to keep fighting and I squeaked it out.”
Brengle won a marathon 11th game to stop Zhu’s run, and finished Zhu off thereafter to claim a variety of Koser landmarks.
Brengle is the first singles top seed in tournament history to win, the first to win back-to-back tournaments and the Koser’s first three-time champion.
From Dover, Delaware, Brengle previously said the Koser was like playing in her backyard. With her mom in attendance, the win carried some extra meaning.
“It’s special,” Brengle said.
Two days before the Koser Challenge began, Vania King didn’t even know if her first-time partner, Claire Liu, would attend.
About a week later, the duo stood together on the court inside Georgelis Stadium as champions.
The American duo beat another American side of Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter, 4-6, 6-2, 10-5.
King, who won Wimbledon and the US Open in the doubles category in 2010, is a decorated doubles player playing her first tournament back since January. Liu, who had never won a doubles title before, was understandably nervous to play with her, she said.
“I was telling everyone that I just didn’t want to let [King] down,” Liu said.
The duo gained momentum with every match, and once that momentum clicked in the final, Liu and King never stopped rolling.
After losing the first set, they found themselves knotted 2-2 in the second set, trailing 40-15 in the game. They came back to win, and never lost another game.
In the tiebreak, after a 3-3 deadlock, Liu and King won the next five points to roll to the win.
“In the second, we started playing a little better,” King said. “We had a little bit more momentum and started being more aggressive and things just kind of came together.”