Tanasugarn Stuns Safina in 's-Hertogenbosch Final
Published June 21, 2008 12:00
's-HERTOGENBOSCH, The Netherlands - Going into the final of the Ordina Open, the stars certainly seemed lined up for Dinara Safina to win. She had won 15 of her last 16 matches, spent less than half the time on the court than her opponent during the week and won their only previous meeting handily. But on the day that champion's prophecy was emphatically proven false, as Tamarine Tanasugarn stunned her in straight sets to capture the key Wimbledon warm-up title.
As a qualifier taking on the No.3 seed, Tanasugarn already seemed to be coming from behind. And when Safina snagged the first break of the match in the ninth game for a chance to serve the first set out at 5-4, things didn't look great for the Thai. But she broke right back and won 10 of the last 12 points of the set to take it, 7-5. The second set remained largely on serve, but Tanasugarn earned the critical break in the seventh game and after surviving a lengthy 16-point service game - in which Safina had five points to get the set back on serve - David finally overcame Goliath, 75 63.
"Maybe it was more difficult for Dinara, as she was seeded and playing really well lately, and I was coming out of the qualies; that could have put some pressure on her today," Tanasugarn said. "After she had the chance to serve out the first set I think her level fell a bit, and once I got to the second set I felt great, and that I could really win this match."
Tanasugarn had arguably the best week of career, coming away with her second and biggest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title. She earned wins over both Bondarenko sisters (new Birmingham champion Kateryna in the first round and No.8 seed Alona in the semifinals), Ashley Harkleroad, Michaella Krajicek and Safina. She was almost down and out against Harkleroad in the second round, rallying from 5-3 down in the third to win, 46 64 75.
Tanasugarn was definitely not intimidated by Safina's No.9 ranking. After all, she had four Top 10 wins going into the final and two of those came on grass in 2001, over Nathalie Tauziat and Amélie Mauresmo. This surface also fuels the Thai veteran's best attribute - her flat, compact groundstokes - and she has capitalized on that in the past, reaching one of her other six career finals at Birmingham in 2000 (falling to Lisa Raymond) and making the fourth round of Wimbledon an impressive six times (in fact, her love for grass is no more evident than in her Grand Slam record: 23-11 at Wimbledon, 28-32 at the other three combined).
After barely batting .500 to start the 2008 season (she was 11-10 coming out of Charleston), Safina has now won 15 of her last 17 matches, winning on the red clay of Berlin, reaching her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros (falling to Ana Ivanovic) and now reaching another final at 's-Hertogenbosch. She is now 0-2 lifetime in grass court finals, having finished runner-up right here at 's-Hertogenbosch two years ago (to Krajicek).
"I have to forget this match because I played some pretty good matches earlier this week and today was just not my day," Safina said. "I want to give lots of credit to Tamarine, I think she played a solid match - but I want to forget this match as soon as I can. I'm leaving for London today, I'll have today and tomorrow off and then Wimbledon starts. So I will have to get ready for that."
Safina was one of three Top 10 Russians in the field this week. She took out one of the other ones, No.1 seed Elena Dementieva, herself in the semifinals; No.2 seed Anna Chakvetadze, the defending champion, lost to Alona Bondarenko.
In the doubles final, which was played Saturday, Marina Erakovic and Krajicek completed an impressive title run in which they didn't drop a single set, crushing Liga Dekmeijere and Angelique Kerber, 63 62. It was Krajicek's third career Tour doubles title, having won Palermo and Budapest with Janette Husarova in 2006; it was Erakovic's first Tour title of any kind.
"We started a little bit nervous and I was a little bit nervous on my service game with two double faults, but the rest of the match we were solid," Krajicek said.
"I'm very happy to have won my first doubles title on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, especially being able to play with Misa," Erakovic added. "About a month ago, I e-mailed her and said, 'Look, do you want to play the French, and what are you doing during the grass court season?' We will see how we do at Wimbledon. This was a good win for us. We can play really well together so why not see if we can play even more."