Safina Continues Hot Streak in Los Angeles
Published July 27, 2008 12:00
LOS ANGELES, CA, USA - All of the attention was on whether the world's No.2 could win the title and ascend to No.1; but Dinara Safina cut those hopes short by upsetting her in Saturday's semifinals, and in Sunday's final she put on another excellent performance against Flavia Pennetta for her second title of the year at the East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife.
Safina, who was seeded No.4, nearly missed out on even reaching the quarterfinals; she was nearly bundled out in the round of 16 by qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva, who held a match point on her at 5-4 in the third set before ultimately succumbing. Upon surviving that one she went on cruise control in her next two matches, crushing No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, 63 61, and dashing No.1 seed Jelena Jankovic's hopes for a title - which would have elevated her from No.2 to No.1 for the first time - in a much-anticipated semifinal on Saturday night, 76(3) 61.
Meanwhile, No.10 seed Pennetta emerged from an upset-ridden bottom half of the draw. None of the Top 8 seeds on that half - Anna Chakvetadze, Daniela Hantuchova, Patty Schnyder - even reached the quarterfinals, and Pennetta was the one who rose to the occasion, defeating Aleksandra Wozniak, Tamira Paszek, Ai Sugiyama, Sybille Bammer and American Bethanie Mattek to reach her 13th and biggest career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles final. Her 61 60 first round drubbing of Wozniak should have been a sign of things to come: the Canadian had won the event in Stanford the week before.
Safina's momentum was just too strong in the final, however. She had been 3-0 head-to-head against Pennetta previously and she extended that to 4-0 with a 64 62 championship victory in just an hour and 10 minutes.
"I was a little bit nervous but I think I played a pretty good match for the final," said Safina, who was unusually calm throughout the match, a contrast to her at-times fiery court demeanor. "Even my coach said he didn't know what was going on with me, that I was so quiet on the court. Now I have to continue playing like that and not go back to the old Dinara!"
"The first set was pretty close; in the second set I had chances but on all of the important points she was playing well," Pennetta said. "She did not give me a lot of chances today. When players like her - good serve, good groundstrokes - are playing well, it is tough to beat them. But anyway, it was a good week for me and I hope next week is going to be even better."
Safina has now made finals in four of her last five events, beginning with a title at Berlin and runner-up finishes at Roland Garros and 's-Hertogenbosch (the only blemish came at Wimbledon, where she fell in the third round); perhaps the most impressive aspect of this run is that these finals have been coming on different surfaces (Berlin and Roland Garros were on clay, 's-Hertogenbosch was on grass, Los Angeles was on hard).
Safina is also the third player in 2008 to win a Tour singles title having come from match point down. Agnieszka Radwanska was the first to do it at Pattaya City (saving a match point against Jill Craybas in the final); Serena Williams was the second to do it at Bangalore (saving a match point against Venus in the semis).
Earlier on Sunday, Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung won their seventh Tour doubles title together, rallying back from 62 42 down to beat Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlirova in a match tie-break, 26 75 104.