Medina Garrigues Strikes Seven in Strasbourg
Published May 26, 2007 12:00
STRASBOURG, France - In a grueling, three set championship final on Saturday, Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues defeated home favorite and No.1 seed Amélie Mauresmo to capture the Internationaux de Strasbourg for the second time in three years.
Medina Garrigues, seeded No.6, needed two hours and 23 minutes to overcome Mauresmo, 64 46 64, in an engrossing contest which kept the crowds at the Centre Sportif de Hautepierre on the edge of their seats throughout. After splitting a pulsating first two sets, it was the Spanish No.1 who drew first blood in the decider, breaking serve in the fifth game to establish an early advantage.
Mauresmo, spurred on by the partisan home crowd, was not going to give up without a fight though and hit straight back to move into a 4-3 lead. However, this would be the closest the 27-year-old would come to winning, as Medina Garrigues reeled of the final three games to secure the title and her first career triumph in five attempts over the Frenchwoman.
The Alsace capital holds happy memories for Medina Garrigues, after capturing the title here in 2005 and her run to the semifinals a year later. The World No.27 had little trouble in her opening two encounters, brushing aside the challenges of Yuliana Fedak and Alicia Molik with relative ease.
Her quarterfinal opponent was Li Na of China and the No.4 seed took the 24-year-old from Valencia to the brink, before finally succumbing in three enthralling sets. For a place in the final, the Spaniard was presented with the daunting prospect of overcoming the in-form Jelena Jankovic, but unfortunately for the crowds on center court the Serbian was forced to withdraw beforehand because of a gastrointestinal illness.
Mauresmo was appearing in just her third tournament since undergoing an emergency appendectomy prior to the Sony Ericsson Open in mid-March and was delighted with how well she performed this week. After receiving a first round bye, the 27-year-old made short work of her second round opponent Varvara Lepchenko, before the first of two compelling all-French clashes.
First up was Emilie Loit, who battled bravely but was ultimately outclassed in two closely fought sets. Standing in between Mauresmo and a place in the final was a second Fed Cup teammate, Marion Bartoli. This proved to be another intriguing contest, but despite taking an epic second set, the same fate befell Bartoli, who was edged out in the three set thriller.
"I'm not disappointed, because my aim was to play as many matches as possible this week," Mauresmo said, "I put in some good performances this week and felt that with every match my game was getting better and better. That is the most important thing as now I have more confidence in my game than before I arrived in Strasbourg. I'm in good form and ready for Roland Garros."
For Medina Garrigues, the run in Strasbourg marks her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the year, and seventh of her career. She will enter Roland Garros full of confidence and with the belief she can improve on her best showings in the French capital to date; third round appearances in 2005 and 2006.
"I think this is one of my best victories because I beat Amélie," Medina Garrigues said, "she is No.5 in the world and to beat a top player like her gives me so much confidence. I was a little lucky that I was not playing on Friday, because against a player like Amélie who is in such great physical condition there are a lot of long rallies and tough points. I feel really good going into Roland Garros as I will arrive having played many matches and in good shape."
The doubles final in Strasbourg was very much a Chinese affair, with top seeds Yan Zi and Zheng Jie taking on their compatriot Sun Tiantian and her Australian partner Alicia Molik. Unfortunately for the lower ranked Molik-Sun pairing the final went to the form book, with Yan and Zheng taking two closely contested sets to capture their 10th Tour title in tandem.