Golovin Edges Srebotnik in Portoroz
Published September 23, 2007 12:00
PORTOROZ, Slovenia - Facing an in-form opponent and the vocal support of the home crowd, Tatiana Golovin truly defied the odds on Sunday afternoon in the beautiful city of Portoroz, defeating Katarina Srebotnik in three marathon sets for her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year at the Banka Koper Slovenia Open.
Golovin, the top seed, came out somewhat sluggishly in the first set, holding her serve in the opening game but going on to lose five of the next six games to surrender it, 6-2. But she lifted her level for the next two sets - each of which lasted more than an hour - and ground out the title victory over No.4 seed and home crowd favorite Srebotnik, 26 64 64.
"I had lots of trouble getting into the match in the first set; she was playing really well in front of her fans and it was just tough at the beginning," Golovin said. "But I started to calm down in the second set and really began fighting. In the third I think we both played really good tennis. It was a really long match!"
"She was playing too well in the second and third sets," Srebotnik said. "She was making some mistakes off the returns and in the rallies in the first set, and she wasn't serving well either. But she stopped giving me free points and made me work hard, and she definitely deserved to win. I admire what she showed today."
The final wasn't Golovin's first close encounter of the week by any means. In the first round she needed three sets to get past American Lilia Osterloh, and in the semifinals she faced several hurdles in the first set of a 76(5) 62 win over No.8 seed Vera Dushevina, including her opponent leading 3-0 and serving for it, 5-4. But she made it through to the final, and had one more grind left in her.
"I played pretty poorly in my first match, but I think I was just getting used to the surface and the conditions," Golovin said. "I just started playing better and better every day. The forehand, the serve - it all started coming together."
Srebotnik, on the other hand, had few problems reaching the final in front of the Slovenian fans. She dropped a total of 13 games in four rounds, never giving away more than three games in any individual set. It looked like she was heading for a fifth win as she blew through the first set and held two points for a 2-0 lead in the second set against Golovin, before the Frenchwoman's rally cap kicked in.
"Of course I can't be happy to have lost in the final but it was a great week for me and I should appreciate it," Srebotnik said. "I made it really far and what is most important was I played well in front of my home crowd, who were amazing. It's tough to lose, but Golovin just took the level up and was the better player."
Although she has had one of her best overall seasons yet, Golovin is still trying to recover fully from a right ankle injury that sidelined her during the clay and grass court seasons. This week is something of a consolidation of her return, and also wipes away the memory of a shock first round loss at the US Open.
"It means a lot that I've won another title after my troubles this year; to win a title at any event is obviously always great," Golovin continued. "You never want to dwell on a loss like mine at the US Open. This gives me a lot of confidence."
"Your first title is always the most special, but this one means a lot to me too," continued Golovin, whose first triumph came at Amelia Island, just a week before suffering her ankle injury. "All the work I've done paid off. Now I just want to finish the year healthy, play some more good matches, maybe get my ranking up for the Australian Open... I just want to play as well as I can."
Also making impressive runs in the singles draw were Dushevina, who defeated No.3 seed Vera Zvonareva in a riveting third set tie-break in the semifinals, and No.7 seed Gisela Dulko, who beat No.2 seed Sybille Bammer to reach the semis.
The doubles final, played Saturday, saw No.3-seeded duo Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova dismissing Andreja Klepac and Elena Likhovtseva in a match tie-break win, 57 64 107. The Czech pair had their chances to win the first set leading 5-3, but were forced to go to the tie-break to decide it all. It is their third Tour title together, having won here last year and Bad Gastein earlier this year.