Caroline Dolehide won the biggest title of her young career on Sunday at the 13th annual Space Coast Pro Tennis Classic, a $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, in the final defeating Romania’s Irina Maria Bara 6-4, 7-5 at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.
The 19-year-old Dolehide overpowered Bara while executing deft drop shots to keep her scrambling opponent off-guard, and dealing with some challenging weather conditions. Last year Dolehide lost in the final of the $60,000 event in Charlottesville to American countrywoman Madison Brengle.
Bara attempted to fend off exhaustion after winning three matches on Saturday, including the doubles title with Spanish partner Silvia Soler-Espinosa. In the final they topped Americans Jessica Pegula/Maria Sanchez 6-4, 6-2.
The No. 7-seeded Dolehide upset No. 3 seed Jana Cepelova in the third round and received a walkover against the top-seeded Brengle (back injury) in the semifinals. The unseeded Bara upended No. 2 seed Kristie Ahn in the second round 7-6(10), 7-6(4), No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals, and No. 4 Taylor Townsend 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals.
Dolehide trailed 2-4 in the first set of the championship match before stringing together four straight games to take the set. Swirling winds picking up late in the match frustrated both players, and Dolehide at one point received a code violation for smashing a racquet. Bara led 5-3 in the second set before she became visibly fatigued and lost the next four games leading to a handshake at the net.
The Chicago native is now 4-2 in career USTA Pro Circuit finals, winning her first of 2018. Last year she was 2-1 in finals, claiming championships at Surprise, Ariz., and Winnipeg, Canada, and finishing runner-up at Charlottesville. The 23-year-old Bara fell to 9-8 in career ITF/USTA Pro Circuit finals, appearing in her first final of the year. In 2017 she was 1-2 in finals, winning at Bastad, Sweden, and finishing runner-up at Pula, Italy, and Valencia, Spain.
Dolehide now leads the 2018 USTA Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge, which offers a French Open main draw wild card to the American who records the two best results at four USTA Pro Circuit tournaments: Indian Harbour Beach, Dothan, Ala. (week of April 16), Charlottesville, Va. (week of April 23), and Charleston, S.C. (week of April 30).
For more info on the USTA Pro Circuit go to www.usta.com/en/home/pro/pro-tennis-events/ProCircuit.html.