Maria Back On Top in Tokyo
Published October 03, 2009 12:00
TOKYO, Japan - It was an abbreviated ending but Maria Sharapova still played phenomenal tennis to win the first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of her comeback from injury, winning by retirement against Jelena Jankovic in the final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open. Tokyo: Final Highlights
With the Top 6 seeds losing their opening matches, No.7 seed Jankovic carried the weight of being the on-paper favorite for the title for most of the week. And she carried it well, winning four matches in a row - including against two players who had winning records against her, Marion Bartoli and Li Na - en route to her third final of 2009, having won in Marbella in April and Cincinnati in August.
Unlike her first two finals of the year Jankovic wouldn't come out on top this time, however, as Sharapova - unseeded in the draw but always a threat, no matter where she plays - was in form. She was pushed to the limit in her first round match by Francesca Schiavone, fighting from 64 42 down to win, 46 75 61. Although she was tested she was never in serious trouble again.
On Saturday, despite losing the first two games, Sharapova found her range to win five games in a row to lead 5-2, and looked to be on her way to closing out the set by winning the first two points of the next game. That's when Jankovic had to retire due to a right wrist injury. Shot of the Day: Jelena Jankovic
"It was a tough start today. Jelena started off so strong. It was my second final of the year and I was a bit nervous," Sharapova told the crowd in her on-court interview. "But I played well enough this week to know I could give her a good match. Unfortunately Jelena had to stop. I wish her a speedy recovery, and hopefully we can play again soon." Interview: Maria Sharapova
Sharapova's career seemed in limbo when she was forced to miss nine months of play between August 2008 and May of this year because of a right shoulder injury. The former world No.1 hadn't won a title since returning but came close several times, including a runner-up finish in Toronto in August. Now, she collects the first singles title of her comeback and the 20th of her Tour career.
"I want to thank all of the fans for coming out here and supporting me, it meant a lot to me," Sharapova added. "To go from not knowing whether you'll ever play the sport again to holding a trophy, it's an unbelievable feeling. You realize what a gift it is to hit a tennis ball. I've put in so much work and this is just exciting."
Jankovic fell to 11-11 lifetime in finals. Interview: Jelena Jankovic
Unseeded pairs Alisa Kleybanova and Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama squared off in the doubles final and it was the first-time pairing of Kleybanova and Schiavone that prevailed, 64 62. Kleybanova won her third career Tour doubles title while Schiavone picked up her seventh.
Sugiyama was playing her final tournament before going into retirement; she is a former world No.8 in singles and made it all the way to No.1 in doubles, the first Asian ever to become No.1 in either discipline on the Tour.