Dulko Wins First Tour Title in Budapest
Published April 29, 2007 12:00
BUDAPEST, Hungary - After going down a set it looked as though she was headed for a third straight loss in a final; but she never threw in the towel. On Sunday a tenacious Gisela Dulko finally captured her first career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title, fighting back for a 67(2) 62 62 win over Romanian teenager Sorana Cirstea in the final of the Gaz de France Budapest Grand Prix.
The first set of the title match-up was by far the most competitive. Dulko rallied back from early deficits of 3-1 and 4-2, and even went ahead 30-0 trying to serve it out at 5-4, but Cirstea hung tough with her, winning four straight points to break back to 5-5 then plowing through the tie-break for a one set lead. Dulko rebounded quickly, however. She reeled off the first four games of the second set and then four of the first five games of the third, eventually clinching the victory in two hours, 27 minutes.
"In the end it was a really physical match," said Dulko, seeded No.6 in Budapest. "We both played long matches all week and were really tired, but I think I was just able to hang in there better at the end. It was a really tough match.
"This was a special week. It was very important for me to win my first title."
"I started off really well and was really happy with the first set," Cirstea said. "But after the first set I was so tired. The second and third weren't bad, but I wasn't fit enough to finish it well. I had a long week; all my matches went to three sets. But even though I lost today, I'm very happy with the result."
Dulko had been 0-2 in finals, falling in the 2005 Hobart final to China's Zheng Jie, and more recently in the Pattaya City final earlier this year to Austrian Sybille Bammer. In Pattaya she had a 5-3 third set lead with three match points, but it was not something she thought about Sunday, at least for most of the match.
"I tried not to think about my other finals but at the end, in the last two or three games, I was thinking about them a little bit; it was impossible not to."
Now, Dulko becomes the first Argentine to claim a Tour singles title in more than three years, the last one being Paola Suárez, who won Canberra in January 2004.
"It has been a long time since a player won a tournament for our country, so I'm really proud," Dulko continued. "I feel proud for myself and our team. We have worked hard for this. I hope I can keep playing well in the next tournaments too."
Cirstea, who won three qualifying rounds and battled through four three-setters just to reach the final, put an end to a longer drought; it had been almost seven years since a Romanian made a Tour singles final, not since Ruxandra Dragomir finished runner-up at 's-Hertogenbosch in June 2000.
"It's a really big thing for me," the 17-year-old said. "Especially since it is only my third Tour event. Hopefully I'll play more finals and win some, too. Ruxandra is such a great person. She sent me messages before and after my matches encouraging me so much. She's our Fed Cup captain and was great this week."
"Sorana is young but she has a great game and a big future," Dulko said. "It's like she has forehands on both sides. She's tough mentally and I think she was just a little bit tired in the end today, but I know she'll be a great player."
The No.4-seeded pairing of Agnes Szavay and Vladimira Uhlirova claimed the doubles title later in the day, defeating non-seeds Martina Müller and Gabriela Navratilova, 75 62. It was a first career Tour title for both the 18-year-old Hungarian Szavay and the 28-year-old Czech Uhlirova.