Dementieva Wins Kremlin Cup
Published October 14, 2007 12:00
MOSCOW, Russia - It was an unexpected ending, but she pulled it off. Facing a dismal career record in finals of that prestige and an opponent she had never taken a set from, the odds seemed stacked against her; but with the cheers of her Russian home crowd lifting her, Elena Dementieva defied all that, battling past Serena Williams in three sets on Sunday afternoon to capture her eighth career singles title at Kremlin Cup.
For Dementieva, the $1.34-million event in her country's capital has always been a special venue. Before this year she reached the semifinals or better an additional five times, getting to the final on two of those occasions but coming away without the trophy. In fact, at tournaments of this magnitude or higher she was perennially a runner-up, winning just once in nine such finals.
Going into Sunday's championship match, an 0-4 head-to-head record against Williams compounded those odds, making Dementieva quite the underdog for the title. But her fight got her through it; although she dropped the first set, 7-5, she had battled back from 2-4 and saved three set points serving 4-5 before finally surrendering it. In the second and third sets it wasn't even close as that opening set loss seemed to drive her, and she would pull off a runaway 57 61 61 victory.
"It was a very difficult match to play and it was tough for me to find my game but I knew I had nothing to lose," Dementieva stated. "We had a tough first set and then right at the beginning of the second set I broke her, and that's when I felt I was starting to push her. I didn't want to give up. I was fighting for every point. I think in the third set she started getting a little tired maybe."
"I made a lot of errors; every ball I hit I felt was going out, and so it was really frustrating," Williams said. "I'm not going to make excuses though - it wasn't the court or anything else - it was me. I thought she played unbelievably. I think she should play like that more often."
Dementieva's three set victory avenged four straight set defeats in her four prior meetings against Williams, including in the final of Miami three years ago. She said the crowd was a key factor in her title run this past week.
"It was very special playing in front of this crowd. They were behind me the whole week and especially today in the final. Serena is such a great champion and I felt like this was really my chance to play well against her, in front of my home crowd, too. It was very, very important for me to do that today."
Monday is Dementieva's 26th birthday; and above everything else that comes with it, this title brings the Russian something she has always wished for.
"This is going to be my best birthday ever; I mean what else can happen to me? I'm just so excited and happy about this title. I've been waiting for this day to come for such a long time - it is truly a dream come true."
Dementieva also dedicated the title to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who died in April this year. Yeltsin's love for tennis was a key factor in its growth. She said none of the Russian success today would have been possible without him.
Both finalists had some struggles throughout the week but ended up notching the wins to make the final bill. Dementieva had all sorts of trouble with Alicia Molik in her first match of the week, allowing leads of 3-0 in the second set and 4-0 in the third set to disappear before eventually prevailing in more than two hours, 62 46 63; Williams saved a set point in the second set of a 64 76(7) quarterfinal win over Nicole Vaidisova then had to avenge a loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova from a week earlier by beating the Russian in the semifinals, 76(2) 61.
Others making noise this past week were Victoria Azarenka, who notched another Top 10 victory to go along with her victory over Nadia Petrova a few weeks ago, saving six set points in the first set of a 76(9) 62 second round win against Maria Sharapova. In the same round, Dinara Safina ousted No.3 seed and defending champion Anna Chakvetadze, 76(6) 62, saving two set points in that first set.
The world's No.1 team made a welcome and successful return to action this week too, as Cara Black and Liezel Huber earned the doubles title, capping it with a 46 61 107 match tie-break win over Belarusians Azarenka and Tatiana Poutchek. It is the Zimbabwean-American pair's seventh Sony Ericsson WTA Tour trophy this year, following victories at the Australian Open, Paris [Indoors], Antwerp, Dubai, Wimbledon and San Diego. They were playing their first tournament since a shock second round loss at the US Open, where they were the No.1 seeds.