'It's as big as winning Wimbledon': Romanian qualifier Laura-Ioana Paar stuns top seed to win ITF event in Sunderland
Romanian qualifier Laura-Ioana Paar recorded a shock victory over top seed Harriet Dart to win the ITF World Tour event in Sunderland on Sunday afternoon.
Paar, the world number 378, needed 2 hours and 18 minutes to record a 7-5 4-6 6-2 victory in a gripping women's final, capping off an exciting week at the Sunderland Tennis Centre.
It's the first time in her career that Paar has won a women's $25,000 event (the amount which is divided up between the whole field), and the 30-year-old from Bucharest was overjoyed with the result.
"It means a lot to me, it's my first 25 title," she said. "It's a big victory for me because I already lost two times to Harriet, she's a really good player.
"Somebody just said I look like I've won Wimbledon so it's as big as that I would say for me, because I've been playing many years and have always been close but have never actually won a 25,000 or bigger.
Dart, the world number 135, had dropped just one set en route to the final but was unable to capitalise after taking a 4-1, and a double break, lead in the opening set.
The British number four, who will now turn her attentions to Great Britain's Fed Cup clash with Kazakhstan next weekend, was unhappy with a number of line calls during the match, after receiving a code violation for verbal abuse at the end of the first set.
Despite coming back to win the second, Dart, 22, repeatedly let her feelings known to the umpire before the match eventually slipped away.
In contrast, Paar kept her composure throughout and couldn't stop smiling, after exceeding even her own expectations.
The Romanian has been staying with friends throughout the week and has thoroughly enjoyed her stay in Sunderland.
"It's great when you have support and when you're done with practise matches you can go out and enjoy dinner, people have been showing me the city it's great.
"We actually went to the football match on Tuesday so it's really nice not to be alone because we travel a lot so it's great when we have friends around so I can spend time outside the court."
A men's event also took place in Sunderland last week, with Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori taking the title with a 6-2 7-5 win over Spain's Andres Andres Artunedo.
Ruusuvuori, 20, dropped just one set in his five matches during the tournament, coming through a high-class field which included Britain's Liam Broady and former world number 52 Igor Sijsling.
"These tournaments are really tough now," said Ruusuvuori, the world number 408, after claiming the title.
"I've had some good matches this week, I feel like I've improved my game, match by match and today was also a tough match.
"The facilities here in England are always very good and everything has been working pretty well."