‘Khabib is a real man’: Tennis ‘black panther’ Kudermetova hails ex-UFC champ as her idol – then lifts first career title with win
The 23-year-old claimed she had no expectations going into the final in South Carolina, where she won the world's oldest professional all-women's tournament in America with a 6-4, 6-2 victory to earn the top prize of around $565,000.
Ranked at 38 going in to the tournament, Kudermetova beat former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who was a previous winner at Charleston, in the quarterfinals, and started 53 places ahead of Kovinic.
The big-serving prospect never seemed unduly troubled as she went one better than her previous final of the year, when she beat world number five Elina Svitolina in Abu Dhabi on a run that was only ended by Belarusian world number seven Aryna Sabalenka.
It was a claycourt tournament stacked with stars & Grand Slam champs, but the Volvo Car Open was won by 38th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova, a lean and powerful Russian who did not drop a set all week & defeated another outsider, Danka Kovinic, 6-4, 6-2 to win her 1st WTA title pic.twitter.com/Tt6WGsatpI— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) April 11, 2021
Kudermetova has said that her tennis inspiration is Russian tennis icon Maria Sharapova, but she named Nurmagomedov as her hero in the build-up to the final.
“Khabib is a tough guy, a real man," she said, speaking to the WTA on its Tennis Channel.
"He never misses an opportunity. I think he's a good person. When he fights, I strongly support him, I like him.
"He is an amazing person, I hope I can be as mentally strong as he is. He has a nickname – an eagle. I am often called a black panther."
After the greatest day of her time in the game so far, Kudermetova now knows how Nurmagomedov felt on some of his greatest nights in his 29-fight unbeaten career.Also on rt.com ‘Medvedev is a hero, but the girls push each other too!’ Rising star Kudermetova on tennis in Russia