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Pennetta Comes Full Circle in Bangkok

A year ago she was in the Top 20 but after missing five months with injury she struggled to regain that form. That all changed in Bangkok.

Published October 14, 2007 12:00

Pennetta Comes Full Circle in Bangkok
Flavia Pennetta

BANGKOK, Thailand - With three titles and a Top 20 ranking, Flavia Pennetta was clearly one of the fast-rising stars in the game as of last year; but a left wrist injury snapped her momentum, forcing her out of action for over five months. It took her a while to rekindle the magic but over the last few weeks in Asia that magic began rekindling, and in Bangkok this past week the Italian announced her return to the winner's circle with a popular victory at the PTT Bangkok Open.

Although she had put together some good weeks earlier in the year, most notably her run to the Acapulco final - the year had been largely inconsistent for Pennetta going into the Asian hardcourt season. A quarterfinal in Kolkata and back-to-back semifinals the next two weeks in Seoul and Tokyo gave her the boost she needed coming into the last leg of her journey.

Pennetta's road to the final was not easy. Seeded No.7, she was nearly sent off in the early rounds by left-hander Casey Dellacqua, who led the Italian 3-0 and 4-2 in the third set before succumbing, 26 63 75. In the quarterfinals she beat No.3 seed Shahar Peer, 36 64 62, after rallying from 4-2 down in the second set. With that, she was rewarded with a semifinal against No.2 seed Venus Williams.

During their nail-biting semifinal, Pennetta kept inching ahead and would watch as Williams kept evening the score, particularly in the second set, where a 4-2 lead turned into Williams holding two set points leading 6-5 herself. They went to a tie-break and Williams earned another set point but Pennetta kept her cool each time, eventually closing out a 64 76(8) victory on her third match point.

"I have to be honest, I'm a little surprised to have beaten her," Pennetta said. "I played her for the first time a few weeks ago in Seoul and lost, but I think when you play a great player like her for the first time you're nervous and you try the wrong things. But today I knew I just had to try my best. I served very well and I think that put a lot of pressure on her; I think that's why I won."

"She played really well; she's eager to get her ranking back and had nothing to lose against me," Williams added. "I'm not surprised - she's capable of playing very well. She did a great job, it was definitely a good match for her to win."

Pennetta was in complete command against unseeded teenager Chan Yung-Jan during the final, the biggest obstacle in her 61 63 victory being a rain delay of over four hours that stopped play right at the beginning of the second set.

"You have to be very focused in finals, so it's always tough to go on and off the court like that, but I just kept thinking about her and how she was playing, so that was okay," Pennetta said. "I'm very happy I won the title. I didn't expect to win here. I had to play two great players, Peer and Williams, and hardcourts aren't my favorite surface, so this is a very important victory for me."

"I'm not too disappointed; it was my first final, but I'll have more chances in the future," said Chan, who has been one of the breakout stars this season in the doubles arena but was appearing in her maiden singles final. "She wasn't making any mistakes and was hitting pretty hard. I think she deserved it today."

Having dipped as low as No.92 after failing to defend her round of 16 points at Wimbledon, Pennetta is now back in the Top 40 just over three months later.

"When you stop for a long time you lose confidence in yourself, then the others lose respect for you. You don't play your best anymore and then too many things are on your mind. I came to Asia hoping to just enjoy myself and have fun and I started to win. I just started improving. For me, the season is starting now!"

Pennetta's wins over Williams and Peer weren't the only upsets of the week - in the second round another of the Asian swing's standouts was bundled out as No.4 seed Virginie Razzano - a winner at both Guangzhou and Tokyo in the weeks prior - was ousted by Urszula Radwanska, young sister of Agnieszka, 76(3) 75. She was calm in the clutch, battling back from a 5-2 first set deficit and saving three set points against her trailing 5-4 in the second en route to the shock win.

Vania King made a popular return to the site of her first singles title but had to withdraw prior to her singles quarterfinal match due to a back injury, which was aggravated during a 67(8) 76(6) 76(4) win over No.5 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. King saved a match point in the second set tie-break.

This year's doubles title went to top seeds Sun Tiantian and Yan Zi, who earned the title when Ayumi Morita and Junri Namigata withdrew prior to the final with Morita getting stricken by gastrointestinal illness. It was the second title in a row for Sun and Yan, who won their first title as a team last week in Tokyo.

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