Kirilenko Wins Second Title of Year
Published June 15, 2008 12:00
BARCELONA, Spain - She had some struggles early on in the week but when it came to crunch time Maria Kirilenko was impeccable, and on Sunday afternoon the Russian starlet captured her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year at the Barcelona KIA with a straight set win against María José Martínez Sánchez.
While top seed Shahar Peer and No.3 seed Dominika Cibulkova both succumbed in the first round - Peer to Nuria Llagostera Vives, Cibulkova to a left abdominal strain - No.2 seed Kirilenko kept the favorites' flag flying with some tenacious play on the red clay of Barcelona, needing just over two hours to stop Roland Garros breakthrough story Carla Suárez Navarro in the second round and rallying back from two set points down in the first set to beat last year's runner-up, Edina Gallovits, in straight sets in the quarterfinals. She was even pushed to a tight two-setter in the semifinals against another unseeded player, Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro.
"Playing Suárez Navarro in the second round was really difficult," Kirilenko said. "I was really happy to win that match even though I was down in the third set. I was also down in the first set to Gallovits in my third match. So it was tough in the first few rounds, but luckily I made it through."
But Kirilenko was dynamic in the final against Martínez Sánchez, winning almost two thirds of the Spanish wildcard's service points but taking nearly two thirds of her own as well, dictating play for an hour and 18 minutes to notch a 60 62 victory. Martínez Sánchez seemed to gain a little life in the second set after losing nine games in a row to commence the title match, closing from 60 30 to 60 32, but Kirilenko regained momentum and finished her off three games later.
"It's my second title this year and I'm really happy everything is working so well on clay, because last year I didn't do so well during this season," Kirilenko said. "Today I concentrated really well and kept any negative emotions inside. I played consistently and saw everything quite clearly. I feel great."
Kirilenko won another clay court title about two months ago in nearby Estoril, Portugal, and now has four Tour singles titles to her name, following a triumph at Beijing in 2005 and a win at Kolkata last fall. She improved her finals record to 4-2 with her win in Barcelona.
"It's hard to compare with my other titles because I feel every title is important," Kirilenko added. "But I think I'll be back in the Top 20 now, which is very good.
"Now I'm off to 's-Hertogenbosch. I play my first match on Tuesday, so I'll have a day off now to recover from this week. I'm really focusing on Wimbledon and I hope I can get some good practice on grass this week."
Martínez Sánchez was playing her first career Tour singles final. Her best showing previous to this week was a semifinal at Madrid in 2001. One thing working in her favor going into the final was that she won her only prior meeting with Kirilenko, albeit at an ITF Circuit event in 2003 when Kirilenko was just starting out.
"I played her once when I was 18 and that time she beat me so easily with her slices, spins and drop shots," Kirilenko said about Martínez Sánchez. "I'm more experienced now so I was able to adapt to her game. But she had a great week; she was injured for a while and is now on her way back, and she's playing really well. It's great she made her first final here."
The doubles final followed Saturday's semifinals, and it was No.3 seeds Lourdes Domínguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja who beat top seeds Llagostera Vives and Martínez Sánchez in a match tie-break, 46 75 104. It was Domínguez Lino's third career Tour doubles title and Parra Santonja's third as well; it was their second title run as a team, having triumphed at Acapulco together last year.