Rezai Wins First Tour Title in Strasbourg
Published May 23, 2009 12:00
STRASBOURG, France - It was third time lucky for Aravane Rezai on Saturday, as she won her first title in three Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles finals on home turf, beating Lucie Hradecka in straight sets for the Internationaux de Strasbourg crown.
Although they were both unseeded, both Rezai and Hradecka reached singles finals on the Tour before, Rezai finishing runner-up at Istanbul in 2007 and at Auckland in 2008, Hradecka doing the same at Bad Gastein last year. Perhaps Rezai's experience in finals helped her out in a tight opening set, as she rallied from 5-3 down and even saved two set points down 6-5 to push it to a tie-break, where she prevailed easily, 7-2.
Rezai was broken in the first game of the second set but ran away with the rest of the match, taking six games in a row to complete a 76(2) 61 victory.
"It's incredible. I'm so happy to win my first title in France," said Rezai, the first French champion in the tournament's 23 years. "I've been working hard for so many years for this and it's hard to put into words what I feel. I want to come back here every year, I love this tournament. This title has given me a lot of confidence but now I'm just going to focus on my first match at Roland Garros."
"I was a little bit unlucky in the first set, because it just came down to one or two points," Hradecka said. "In the second set I made some mistakes and she played really well. I'm still happy about reaching the final this week though."
Rezai's experiences in previous finals weren't among her best memories, as she retired against Elena Dementieva due to left patella tendonitis in the Istanbul final and was crushed by Lindsay Davenport in the Auckland final. But the 22-year-old had gained steam over the last few weeks, tight losses to far-higher-ranked players at Rome and Madrid proving she could hang tough with anyone.
The two finalists only dropped one set each en route to the final, Rezai pulling off a 06 61 62 win over Monica Niculescu in the quarterfinals and Hradecka beating Jasmin Woehr in the first round, 36 61 62. The Frenchwoman only had to play one seed - beating No.2 seed Sybille Bammer in the first round, 62 62 - and the Czech didn't have a single seeded player in her first four matches of the week.
In fact, only one seed even made their projected quarterfinal spot, that being No.3 seed Peng Shuai, who would lose to Ayumi Morita in that very round. Japan's Morita would eventually retire against Hradecka in the semis with a left thigh strain; Rezai beat qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova in the semifinals.
Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo won their third doubles title of the year, taking advantage of top seeds Chuang Chia-Jung and Tamarine Tanasugarn's first round loss and going all the way to the title. The No.2-seeded pair, who had already won titles this year at Auckland and Monterrey, would defeat surprise unseeded finalists Claire Feuerstein and Stéphanie Foretz in a 49-minute final, 60 61. They are the third team to win three titles this year, following Cara Black and Liezel Huber and Nuria Llagostera Vives and María José Martínez Sánchez.
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