Zvonareva Outrallies Peng for Guangzhou Title
Published September 21, 2008 12:00
GUANGZHOU, China - She was the strong favorite when the draw came out, and she definitely held true to her top seeding. Vera Zvonareva didn't drop a set en route to the final of the TOE Life Ceramics Guangzhou International Women's Open, and despite dropping the first set on Sunday she still cruised to victory against Peng Shuai, 67(4) 60 62, to capture her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year and the seventh of her impressive career.
Zvonareva flew into Guangzhou from Madrid, where she helped Russia capture its fourth Fed Cup title in the last five years. That experience probably gave the Russian the boost she needed after an early exit at the US Open, as she notched straight set wins over Anastasia Rodionova, Xu Yi-Fan, Karin Knapp and Zheng Jie in the first round through the semifinals.
The only seeded opponent Zvonareva had to take on en route to the final was Zheng, who was the No.3 seed. She was technically the No.2 of the tournament however, following the late injury withdrawal of last week's Bali champion Patty Schnyder, who would have been the No.2 seed. Zheng was one of Zvonareva's toughest matches of the week, as she nearly pushed their semifinal to a third set leading 5-3 in the second, before ultimately succumbing, 63 75.
The final saw the No.4-seeded Peng pushing Zvonareva hard in their rallies with her penetrating, two-fisted groundstrokes, going up a double break early on and eventually holding onto her edge to take the first set in a tie-break; but the more experienced Zvonareva came roaring back, winning 12 of the last 14 games to pull off a runaway victory in three sets and take home the singles title.
"I wasn't going for my shots enough in the first set; I think I was playing a bit too passively," Zvonareva said. "She's a very good player and fights well, and she took advantage. But I had more experience behind my back and was able to turn the match around by going for my shots again. We had a tough match in our first time playing each other - if she keeps playing like this, she has a great future."
Zvonareva now boasts seven singles titles in her Tour career. She won her first five between 2003 and 2006, and after going the entire 2007 season without one she has now collected two in 2008, at Prague and now Guangzhou.
Given her impressive results this season, it is no surprise Zvonareva is back in the world's Top 10. She spent 11 non-consecutive weeks inside the elite during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, but after winning the bronze medal at the Olympics this past August she returned there for the first time since then, and has been going back and forth between the No.9 and No.10 rankings ever since.
Zvonareva has been doing a lot of winning this season, too. Although two titles wouldn't normally indicate it, she is one of only three players to win 50 or more main draw matches on the Tour in 2008 - her win over Peng on Sunday was her 50th. Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina have also crossed the mark.
The Chinese contingent was very strong in Guangzhou, with nine - almost a third - of the 32 competitors in the main draw representing the home nation. Peng made it the furthest and continued to show improved consistency in her week-to-week results, reaching her second Tour final in as many months, having finished runner-up at Forest Hills in August (to Lucie Safarova).
"I was really happy I could get to the final," Peng said. "There were a lot of fans here, and whenever I was in a tough match they helped me fight through it. Every year this tournament gets better and I hope to be back here next year."
"She had a lot of expectation when she was younger," Zvonareva said of Peng. "She is improving every year and this year she's playing very well. Chinese tennis is strong right now. People don't want to play in Russia because there are so many Russian players, but now people don't want to come to China either! And I think there are going to be even more young players coming up."
It was a Top 2 showdown in the doubles final, which followed the singles final, with No.1 seeds Sun Tiantian and Yan Zi taking on No.2 seeds Mariya Koryttseva and Tatiana Poutchek. And it was Koryttseva and Poutchek that prevailed, taking the title by a match tie-break victory, 63 46 108. It was their first Tour doubles title as a team; they now each hold four Tour doubles titles individually.