Zvonareva Wins First Title of Year
Published February 15, 2009 12:00
PATTAYA CITY, Thailand - Russia's Vera Zvonareva won her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year and eighth of her career on Sunday afternoon, capping an impressive week at the PTT Pattaya Open with a hard-fought 75 61 win over India's Sania Mirza in the final.
Zvonareva, ranked No.5 in the world and the top seed at the $220,000, International-level event, hadn't lost more than four games in a set in reaching the final, including wins in the quarters and semis over No.5-seeded Peng Shuai and No.7-seeded Shahar Peer. That trend came to an abrupt end in the final against an unseeded Mirza, who rallied from 5-2 down to tie things up, 5-5; but Zvonareva completely took over from there, reeling off eight of the last nine games of the match for a runaway 75 61 victory and her first title of the year.
"I was able to take a 5-2 lead, but it didn't really mean much because every game was very tough - it was close from the beginning," Zvonareva said. "She was able to lift her game up a little bit, and maybe I wasn't exactly playing as aggressively as I normally do. The rhythm changed and it was 5-all; I'm very happy with the way I lifted my own game at that point. After I won the first set I really started to play my game and didn't give her a chance to play how she wanted to play. I'm really happy with the way I finished the match."
"The opening set could have gone either way, but when you're playing against someone who's so good, if you don't take your chances - the one or two that you get - you will pay a price for it," Mirza said. "She played a great match. I felt like I played okay as well. I was striking the ball well."
It has been a sizzling start to 2009 for Zvonareva, whose 2008 season was her best yet, highlighted by reaching eight finals - the most of any player. In her first event of this season she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open, subsequently rising to a new career-high of No.5; this was her second event of the season, and she now adds to her cabinet that already includes trophies from Bol in 2003, Memphis in 2004 and 2005, Birmingham and Cincinnati in 2006 and Prague and Guangzhou from last year. She is now 8-11 in finals.
Mirza missed over half of 2008 because of a right wrist injury, and recently she became India's third - and first female - Grand Slam champion, with a win in the Australian Open mixed doubles partnering her mentor, Mahesh Bhupathi. She upset two seeds - No.6 Tamarine Tanasugarn and No.8 Magdalena Rybarikova - to reach the title match, and is now 1-3 lifetime in finals.
"This is my second tournament this year after six months of injury last year," Mirza said on Saturday. "I couldn't ask for a better start by winning the mixed doubles in the Australian Open and making it to the final here in Pattaya City."
Mirza remains the only Indian ever to win a title of any kind on the Tour, with one singles title (2005 Hyderabad) and seven doubles titles to her name. She also holds the distinction of being India's first Top 50 player on the Tour, having made it all the way to a career-high of No.27 in the summer of 2007, although due to her aforementioned setbacks in 2008 she has since fallen from that elite.
"I don't look at the rankings. For me it's more important how I'm hitting the ball, and right now if I can match someone who is Top 5 in the world then I'm playing pretty decent tennis," Mirza added. "To me, that and the fact that I was playing the finals in just my second tournament back is more important than where my ranking stands. If I'm playing well, the ranking will take care of itself."
Tanasugarn and Yaroslava Shvedova teamed up to win the doubles title, beating Yuliya Beygelzimer and Vitalia Diatchenko in the final, 63 62. It was Tanasugarn's sixth career Tour doubles title; it was Shvedova's first career Tour doubles title, although she did have one Tour title to her name already, having won the singles title in Bangalore two years ago. They were playing together for the eighth time.
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