V for Venezuela: Sequera Wins in Fès
Published May 20, 2007 12:00
FÈS, Morocco - Three-and-a-half years ago, Milagros Sequera reached her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles final in Québec City, but fractured her left ankle mid-match against Maria Sharapova and had to retire. On Sunday in Fès, the Venezuelan put to rest the bad memories in her second try, beating Aleksandra Wozniak, who appropriately hails from Québec, 61 63. It is the first title of its kind for Sequera's home nation.
The two unseeded women both had to battle hard to reach Sunday's final. Sequera hung tough against No.3 seed Virginie Razzano and No.7 seed Camille Pin in her earlier match-ups, then prevailed in a third set tie-break against Romanian qualifier Raluca Ioana Olaru in an impressive come-from-behind semifinal win. Wozniak's biggest test came in the quarterfinals against French phenom Alizé Cornet, who held triple match point against the Canadian.
The final was all Sequera, however. Wozniak held serve to open the match but the Venezuelan reeled off six straight games to take the first set. After going down 2-0 in the second set she again took it up a notch, reeling off six of the next seven games to tuck away her first Tour singles title in one hour, 10 minutes.
"All of the players I played this week were very good; against all of them I just had to be strong," Sequera said. "The win over Pin was especially tough, because we both got a stomach bug; she had it worse than I did though, and it was good that I was able to pull through. The doctor gave me good medicine and it only lasted for a day.
"I played my best tennis of the week in the final. At the beginning of both sets I was sort of nervous - I hadn't played a final in a long time - but I calmed down."
"I was very happy to be in the final; I won some tough matches with good clay court players, and I'm from Canada so I'm usually just playing on hardcourts," Wozniak said. "Sequera is a much more experienced player. You have good days and bad days; in my early matches I fought hard and played my heart out and was able to come through, but today Sequera was just playing too well. I was disappointed that I lost but it's only my second year, and I'll have more finals."
The memories of Québec City served as a source of motivation for the eventual champion, but not in the way most would expect.
"As soon as I got to the final here, the goal was to actually finish it - win or lose - and stay healthy, and do my best. Fortunately, it worked today!"
This was the third time in Tour history that a Venezuelan played for a singles title; Maria Vento-Kabchi was the first ever, finishing runner-up at Gold Coast in 1998, and Sequera was a runner-up at 2003 Québec City. Winning Venezuela's first title was all gravy for Sequera.
"I'm overwhelmed - it makes it so much better. I'm excited and thrilled to lift up the name of my country. Hopefully there's more to come; I just want to keep improving my tennis, and keep growing as a player and a person off the court.
"It's a learning experience every day."
Regardless of the loss, Wozniak wrote her name in the history books as the first woman from Québec to reach a Tour singles final. Those before her - Patricia Hy-Boulais, Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, Jill Hetherington, Sonya Jeyaseelan - were all from provinces other than the French-speaking one.
"It's definitely a good sign if I can make history!" the 19-year-old from Blainville added. "It also shows that Canada is coming a long way. I hope that I can keep improving and one day be as good as the other famous Canadians were."
The doubles final took place on Saturday, with No.1 seeds Vania King and Sania Mirza taking the title with a 61 62 win over No.2 seeds Andreea Ehritt-Vanc and Anastasia Rodionova. The title was an impressive achievement particularly for Mirza, who made her return to the Tour at this event after missing two-and-a-half months due to a right knee injury suffered in February, which required surgery.
"I'm obviously very happy," the Indian said. "It's always good to win a Tour title, I think more so because Vania and I were a last-minute pairing. And especially after two or three months away from the game. Hopefully I can keep improving."
Mirza was ousted in her opening singles match by eventual semifinalist María Emilia Salerni, but eventually came away with her fourth career Tour doubles title, and first outside India.