Dulgheru Does It Again
Published May 22, 2010 12:00
WARSAW, Poland - One year ago she made quite the first impression in Warsaw, qualifying for her very first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw then going all the way to the title. She went quiet for a while but this year's clay court season brought back that fire, and Alexandra Dulgheru has repeated her Cinderella run, winning her second career title at the Polsat Warsaw Open.
Last year, a 19-year-old Dulgheru came into Warsaw ranked No.201 in the world and surprised everyone, beating Alona Bondarenko to become just the fifth player in Tour history to win a title while ranked outside the Top 200 - and first to do it at a Premier-level tournament. Kim Clijsters joined that list later in the year, doing it at a Grand Slam - the US Open - and unranked, no less.
With a pair of Top 10 wins on clay this year, over Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, and coming in ranked No.32, Dulgheru was not the longshot she was last year. But winning back-to-back titles at a Premier stop is quite the feat, and she was unseeded, too. She beat No.7 seed Kateryna Bondarenko in the first round then beat China's Top 2 in the last two rounds, first edging No.3 seed Li Na in the semis, 64 36 64, and No.5 seed Zheng Jie in the final, 63 64.
"I felt good from the beginning, but Zheng is a very good player and I had to focus on every point," Dulgheru said. "It's a special feeling to win here. Besides the tactics and strategies, the nice feelings I get here also helped me win today.
"I'll have more confidence going into the French Open, but I'm a bit tired now! It's important for me to rest and recover in the next few days and get ready."
Zheng was seeking her fourth career singles title on the Tour and was trying to become the first Chinese ever to win a Premier-level title. Things looked headed for a third set as the 26th-ranked 26-year-old built a 4-2 lead in the second set, but it just wasn't to be. She fell to 3-2 lifetime in singles finals.
"She changed the rhythm to make it difficult for me. I had my chances in the second set, but I didn't take them," Zheng said. "I feel very good about this tournament. I was in the doubles final last year and the singles final this year. Now I'm just looking forward to my first round match at Roland Garros."
Top 2 seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Dementieva weren't able to make it deep in the draw in Warsaw, Wozniacki retiring against Zheng in the quarters with an injured ankle and Dementieva losing to qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova in her opening match. No.4 seed Marion Bartoli also lost early on.
"I'm so happy to win. I'd like to visit Warsaw next year," said Ruano Pascual, who is retiring from professional tennis at the end of the year."I think we won today because we played so well together as a team."