Kirilenko Sweeps Singles, Doubles in Estoril
Published April 20, 2008 12:00
ESTORIL, Portugal - It was a career week for Maria Kirilenko on the clay courts of Estoril. On Saturday she won the doubles title and on Sunday she claimed her third career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title, taking out Iveta Benesova in straight sets in the championship final, 64 62.
Seeded second behind one of the Tour's best clay court players, Flavia Pennetta, Kirilenko didn't start the tournament as much of a favorite for the trophy, and even less so after struggling to a three set win in her first match of the week against qualifier Stefanie Voegele. But Pennetta lost her second match to unseeded Iveta Benesova and from there Kirilenko's spirits started to look up, with recent Viña del Mar and Acapulco winner Pennetta ousted.
After the aforementioned first round struggle Kirilenko was much more on top of her game during the rest of the week, defeating Petra Cetkovska and No.5 seed Tathiana Garbin in straight sets in her next two rounds and surviving a thriller against No.6 seed Klara Zakopalova in the semifinals, rallying from an opening set blowout to prevail and reach the final with a 26 63 75 victory.
On the other side of the draw, Benesova was consolidating her momentum from her upset of Pennetta, bouncing No.8 seed Camille Pin in the quarterfinals and Maret Ani in the semifinals. But by the weekend, Kirilenko had built up too much momentum, and after falling behind 3-1 early on went into overdrive, reeling off 11 of the 14 games remaining for the one-hour, 24-minute, straight set win.
"I feel great after winning the first clay court title of my career," Kirilenko said. "I had never won a match in Estoril and this year I won both the singles and the doubles title of the Estoril Open. This is just great and I am very, very happy how this tournament went. It will be good for my self-confidence going into the clay court season. What else can I say... It has been a fantastic week!"
Kirilenko improves to 3-2 lifetime in Tour singles finals, having earned titles at Beijing in 2005 and Kolkata in 2007 and finished runner-up at Hyderabad in 2004 (to Nicole Pratt) and Seoul in 2007 (to Venus Williams). Of particular note for the Russian is that this was the first time in her career to reach the quarters or better at a clay court event - and she went all the way to the title.
Benesova was playing her first Tour singles final in over two years, and is now 1-5 lifetime in those, prevailing at Acapulco in 2004 (where she upset Pennetta in the final) and finishing runner-up at Bratislava in 2002, Estoril and Forest Hills in 2004 and Hobart in 2006. In the 2004 final here, she lost to Emilie Loit.
"I am of course disappointed now after losing the final," Benesova said. "I had my chances, especially in the first set. But overall, I had a very good week at the Estoril Open. Despite the loss today it was a good tournament and it should hopefully get me back to the Top 100."
A day before the singles final Kirilenko and Pennetta put the finishing touches on their first doubles trophy run on the Tour, beating Mervana Jugic-Salkic and Ipek Senoglu in the final, 64 64. They won the first set routinely then rallied from 3-1 down in the second to prevail in straight sets. It was a fourth career Tour doubles title for Kirilenko and the third for Pennetta, in their first tournament together.
"It is the first time we played together and it is just great that we were able to win here at Estoril right away," Pennetta said. "I think we played very well together. Winning a title is not so easy, so I am very happy how this week went. I hope it won't be the last tournament we play together."
"Flavia and I had a lot of fun on court and I think that was one of the reasons we played so well here," Kirilenko added. "It wasn't easy today with the weather conditions but we managed and I am very happy we could win this tournament."
Kirilenko is the second player this year to win both the singles and doubles at a Tour event, following Lindsay Davenport's dual crown at Memphis.