Kirilenko Crowned Queen of Kolkata
Published September 23, 2007 12:00
KOLKATA, India - One of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's brightest young talents capped a perfect week and a recent return to form in Kolkata on Sunday, as Maria Kirilenko won her second career title - and first in almost exactly two years - at the Sunfeast Open.
Seeded No.4, Kirilenko never got into too much trouble through all five of her matches in the Indian city. She won her first three matches without dropping more than four games in any set; and after losing the first set to Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals, she stormed back to upset the No.2 seed in an entertaining three-setter, 46 62 61.
"My first few matches were pretty quick and I felt great going into the semifinals," Kirilenko said. "My semifinal was difficult, but after I lost the first set I didn't get upset. I still fought for every ball. I'd lost some close matches to her before and knew I had to take my chances this time, and that's why I won."
The Russian seemed unstoppable through most of Sunday night's championship final against the Ukraine's Mariya Koryttseva. She blazed through the opening set at love, and after falling behind 2-0 in the second set she resumed that streak with six more in a row to complete a 60 62 win for the title.
"The score looked easy but I had to play well," Kirilenko said. "I served well, ran well, hit my groundstrokes well. Everything was just working and physically I felt really good. I'm thrilled to have played so well in the final."
Kirilenko has gone full circle since first bursting into prominence two seasons ago. She won her first career title in Beijing on September 25, 2005, and by the summer of 2006 was ranked in the world's Top 20. But a disappointing second half to 2006, winning six matches in 12 events, saw her drop to No.30.
The slump continued in the first half of this year, as Kirilenko dropped out of the Top 40 by the summer. But a coaching change and renewed focus helped the Russian to pull a complete 180 during the summer hardcourt season - she made the quarterfinals at San Diego and Los Angeles, bouncing Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli along the way, and was once again on the rise in the world ranks.
Now, she hopes to continue her spike with new coach Eric Van Harpen: "I changed coaches a few times last year to try different things; although I was always working hard the results weren't there."But my coaching is perfect now. Eric and I started just before Wimbledon this year, and already I have had some great weeks in America and feel I'm on my way back up. We work hard and understand each other perfectly, so I'm very happy with him."
Asked about the two-year coincidence from her Beijing title, the 20-year-old said she didn't even realize it going into the final. But what she does know is that she had a career week in Kolkata: "To win one more title is so great, and to do it here is nice. India is so different compared to other cultures. I've been here three times but in different cities. And I knew what to expect - all the people are really nice, and I have a lot of support here, so it was just perfect. I'm really happy I was able to play here."
Koryttseva enjoyed what was by far the best week of her career, having never played even a quarterfinal, but here she made it all the way to her first final. She didn't drop a set en route but was pressed by Anne Keothavong in the semis, digging out of a 0-30 hole serving at 4-5 in the first set and eventually winning, 76(3) 63. Keothavong was the first Brit in a Tour semi in 15 years.
"I was really tired in the final and it was hard to move because of that but I give all the credit to Maria, she just played too well today," Koryttseva said. "This is a memorable week for me and I hope to come back to Kolkata next year."
Koryttseva was a runner-up twice Sunday, also falling in the doubles final with her Italian partner, Alberta Brianti. They fell to No.1-seeded teenagers Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva, 61 64, though they did lead 4-2 in the second set. It was King's fourth career Tour doubles title and second of the year, while Russia's Kudryavtseva claimed her first Tour title of any kind.