South Africa's Chanel Simmonds narrowly missed out on winning the Soweto Open, going down to top-seed Timea Babos in three sets in the final, played at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre on Saturday.
The contest lasted just over three hours, with Babos eventually prevailing 6-7 (3-7) 6-4, 6-1.
The powerful Babos - ranked 67 places higher than Simmonds - hardly had it her own way in a match that featured countless breaks of serve in blustery conditions.
"It was a really tough match and Chanel did a really great job. She made me more and more uncomfortable throughout the first set and at the beginning of the second, so I really had to fight back," said the world number 114.
"At the start of the second, I was just telling my coach that somehow I will manage to win, even if I have to hold my racket in my left hand, so I'm really happy to have won the title."
Winning the toss and electing to serve, Babos was the first to break and quickly raced to a 3-0 lead before serving for the first set at 5-3. Simmonds, plucky as always, fought back to level the match at 5-5 and despite allowing Babos back to force a tie-break, kept her nose in front throughout.
The see-saw effect continued in the second until Simmonds secured a break in the fourth game to serve at 3-1. Babos soon broke back to draw level at 3-3, before surviving a mammoth 10th game. It lasted nearly 15 minutes, during which she saved eight break points, and more importantly grabbed the momentum heading into the deciding set.
"When I won the game at 5-4, I thought okay, I'm back on track and can win this match, so I was trying to focus on the good things, win more points and finally win the match," said the 20-year-old.
After giving the crowd so much hope early on, Simmonds wilted away in the deciding set, clearly frustrated at not being able to wrap up the match, with her opponent in rampant mood.
The big-serving Hungarian needed only 20 minutes to finally put the South African's hopes to bed en-route to her 10th ITF singles title.
"I came here to get into the main draw of Wimbledon and being in the semi- finals, I had already done that, so I didn't just want to stop there, so with this result I'll be back in the top-100," she said.
Simmonds, although disappointed at finishing runner-up, had plenty of positives to take away from the tournament.
"I'm a little disappointed after today, but I'm just so glad to have reached the final of a 50 000 [dollar event], even though I lost," she said. Making it to the final should see Simmonds climb at least 30 places up from her current position of 181st in the world rankings.
She was especially proud of her efforts during the quarter and semi-finals in which she defeated second-seed Julia Glushko of Israel and Ukrainian Nadiya Kichenok, the fourth-seed.
There was some consolation for Simmonds, who teamed up with Poland's Magda Linette to win the doubles title, defeating the British pair of Jade Windley and Samantha Murray 6-1, 6-3 in the final.
Women's Singles Final
1-Timea Babos (Hun) bt 5-Chanel Simmonds (RSA) 6-7(3) 6-4 6-1
1 - Chanel Simmonds (RSA/ Magda Linette (Pol) bt Jade Windley/ Samantha Murray (GBR) 6-1, 6-3