Llagostera Vives Wins in Bogotá
Published February 24, 2008 12:00
BOGOTÁ, Colombia - It has been a roller coaster ride for Nuria Llagostera Vives over the last few years. She compiled the best season of her career in 2005, sat on the sidelines for most of 2006 then struggled to find her form again in 2007; but this past week she made a scintillating return to form, plowing through qualifying and the main draw to win her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title at the Copa Colsanitas Santander.
Although she had had Top 100 seasons twice already, 2005 was the breakout season for Llagostera Vives, highlighted by an eight-match clay court win streak that brought her a first career title at Rabat then carried her to her first Grand Slam second week at Roland Garros. She ranked well inside the Top 50 - peaking at No.35 in June after the run in Paris - and seemed headed for even higher grounds as her game became more and more difficult for the top players to hit through.
A promising beginning to the 2006 season was marred by disaster in Miami; the Spaniard injured her right wrist in her first round match against Shinobu Asagoe and would miss the entire rest of the season. She returned to Tour competition in 2007 but just wasn't the same, making the quarterfinals or better once more - that is, until this year's Latin American clay court season.
In the first leg of the three-week Latin American swing last week in Viña del Mar she qualified and reached her second quarterfinal since returning to the circuit, falling to Mariya Koryttseva in straight sets (though she did have two set points in the second set). And this week she pulled that same trick but went even further, making the final without losing a set then beating María Emilia Salerni, 60 64.
"Obviously I'm feeling very good - I didn't lose a set this week and that probably helped as I had to play the qualifying as well," said Llagostera Vives, who rallied back from 4-2 down in the second set of the final. "If we went to three sets I'd have been okay, though. I was ready to do whatever it took to win today."
Last year was a particularly tough one for the Spaniard; she made it deep into the draw at Estoril but failed to win back-to-back matches at the 11 other Tour events she entered, her No.145 year-ending ranking mainly from her results on the ITF Women's Circuit, which included three title runs.
"Last year I barely won any matches, and I started this season not really knowing where I'd be. But I started feeling really good last week at Viña del Mar and I think my confidence has been growing from there. I have had a lot of exciting moments in my career and this is definitely one of them. Thinking about all of the trouble I've had the last few years and all of the work I've done to get back to where I am, I almost cried today after the match."
It was also a career week for Salerni. The Argentine was a multiple Grand Slam champion in the juniors at the turn of the millennium and was touted for years as one of the ones to watch on the Tour; but consistent trouble with injuries was keeping her from realizing her true potential, and this week she finally reached her first career Tour singles final.
"I had some really great moments in the juniors; everyone always mentions that. But it's tough to transition to the Tour in South America. We don't have as many tournaments as in North America and Europe, so maybe we need more time to grow as players. Also I had bad injuries for four years in a row and last year was really the first time I could play the whole season. I thank my coach, Gonzalo López, who I've worked with for almost two years, as well as Anabel Medina Garrigues, who he also coaches. Everything is just going so much better the last year or two. I'm just very happy and I can't be disappointed I lost today."
Unlike Llagostera Vives Salerni didn't have to qualify, but she more than made up for that with several three-setters in the main draw, the hardest of which being a 36 76(3) 63 semifinal win over teen-aged qualifier Carla Suárez Navarro, during which she trailed 63 42; her opponent also served for the match at 63 54.
"I had a really tough time in the semifinals, but I really wanted to make my first final and I just kept fighting," Salerni said. "She gave me only one chance and I took it, so I was proud of that. Even though I was tired from that match I still gave it my best against Nuria but she was playing too well today. She is coming back from a bad injury and played well this whole week. I'm very happy for her."
None of the Top 4 seeds made their expected semifinal berths, let alone the quarterfinals; most shocking was the first round departure of No.1-seeded Flavia Pennetta, who won the tournament in Vina del Mar last week. In the semis it was Salerni and three qualifiers (Betina Jozami, Llagostera Vives, Suárez Navarro).
The doubles final was played Saturday and it was Iveta Benesova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands who prevailed, defeating No.4 seeds Jelena Kostanic Tosic and Martina Müller, 63 63. It was the third career Tour doubles title for both Benesova and Mattek-Sands, and the very first for their partnership.