Cirstea Wins First Career Title in Tashkent
Published October 12, 2008 12:00
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - Two of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's brightest young stars went to battle in the Tashkent Open final on Sunday and it was Sorana Cirstea who rose to the top on this occasion, coming back from the brink in the third set and edging Sabine Lisicki in a third set tie-break to capture her first title.
Cirstea and Lisicki travelled very different paths to the title match. Although some were close, No.3 seed Cirstea didn't drop a single set in her first four matches; No.4 seed Lisicki was made to work very, very hard, particularly in her quarterfinal and semifinal, first rallying from 63 31 down to beat Urszula Radwanska, 36 75 76(4), then grinding for nearly three hours to earn a 57 63 64 win over No.1 seed Peng Shuai. One could say Cirstea was the fresher of the two going into the final.
It certainly didn't show early on. The big-serving, big-hitting Lisicki powered through the first set, 6-2, in just 25 minutes, and after cooling off to drop the second set took the upper hand once again, taking leads of 3-1 and 4-2. Cirstea broke back, however, and even saved a match point trailing 5-4, pushing it to a deciding tie-break and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, 26 64 76(4).
"Breaking her in the first game of the second set was the turning point of the match," said Cirstea, who was also forced to hit a second serve down that match point. "I thought now or never, and just went for it. From then I just went for my strokes. Staying tough in the important moments of the match really helped me, and I hope to continue this form at tournaments in the coming weeks."
Cirstea was a runner-up in her first career final, losing to Gisela Dulko in three sets on the clay courts of Budapest last spring. But it was second time lucky in Tashkent this year, as the 18-year-old came back from the brink to emphatically beat her 19-year-old opponent, who was playing in her first career final.
"I'll cherish the title in Tashkent forever as it is my first title; I was desperate to take my first title!" Cirstea added. "I've been improving a lot since my first final, and I'm looking for many more titles. I'm also extremely happy to wear the traditional Uzbek dress, which has become the trademark of this event."
"I made some mistakes and missed too many easy shots; it was my first final and I'm happy to have come so far, but I'm sad to lose," Lisicki said. "Although I might have missed a lot of shots today, in the future these shots will be my weapons. My goal is to be a Top 10 player and I'm going to work even harder."
With Cirstea, Lisicki and Peng all reaching the semifinals, the only Top 4 seed not reaching the semifinals was No.2 seed Olga Govortsova, who squandered a 3-1 third set lead en route to a 76(7) 46 75 first round loss to qualifier Ksenia Palkina. In her stead it was No.5 seed Magdalena Rybarikova who reached the final four before retiring against Cirstea due to illness after dropping the first set, 6-3. Also making noise in Tashkent was Portuguese phenom Michelle Larcher de Brito, who reached a Tour quarterfinal for the first time in her very green career.
The doubles final took the court on Saturday as well, with Ioana Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beating Nina Bratchikova and Kathrin Woerle in a match tie-break, 57 75 107. Both Olaru and Savchuk picked up their first Tour titles of any kind; and while Olaru had reached one Tour doubles final - at Budapest earlier this year, finishing runner-up - Savchuk was playing her first Tour final of any kind.