Makarova Catches Fire, Wins Eastbourne
Published June 19, 2010 12:00
EASTBOURNE, England - Ekaterina Makarova's big breakthrough has come, and at her best tournament too. The young Russian lefty thwarted Victoria Azarenka's dream week with a 76(5) 64 win in the final of Eastbourne - her first career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title in three career finals.
In Makarova's two previous attempts at the AEGON International, she made the quarterfinals as a qualifier the last two years. As a qualifier again this year she equalled that feat, beating Flavia Pennetta and Nadia Petrova to do so. But she kept pushing further, reaching the semis with a 64 75 victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova, then the final with a 76(5) 75 win over Sam Stosur. Her momentum was strong - she didn't even lose a set along the way.
On the other side of the draw, Victoria Azarenka was compiling a similar set of results. Having gone 7-8 on the Tour since the Dubai final in February and unseeded here, she recorded four straight set wins - including over seeds Agnieszka Radwanska, Kim Clijsters and Marion Bartoli - to reach the final. Combined with her quarterfinal run at Wimbledon last year, she came into the final having won eight of her last nine grass court matches.
The final was tight, but one player was able to continue their momentum, and it wasn't the No.15-ranked Azarenka. World No.100 Makarova was sharp, regrouping after blowing a 5-2 lead to take the first set in a tie-break, then getting a break in the fifth game of the second and holding onto it until the end.
"I cannot believe I won the title. I'm thinking I have to play one more match - I don't feel like the tournament is done," Makarova said. "I started well today with no mistakes, but then I got a little nervous, maybe thinking I could win. But then I just threw that from my mind and played every point and it worked."
Makarova is the first qualifier ever to win in Eastbourne, and the first to even reach the final since Vera Dushevina did so in 2005. It was her third career final - she was runner-up at Estoril and Fès last year, both International-level and both on clay, a far cry from this week's Premier-level grass court stop.
Makarova is one of the few players on the Tour with a female coach, former player Evgenia Manyukova: "She was a really good player. She was working with the Russian Federation and I really wanted to work with her because I was enjoying every practice. So this is thanks to her. This is her win too."
Azarenka falls to 3-6 in finals. This was her first career final on grass.
Veterans Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs won their 33rd doubles title as a team - and first since winning this one exactly five years ago - with a 62 26 1311 match tie-break victory against Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik. After missing their first match point leading 9-8 in the breaker, Raymond and Stubbs saved two match points against them - 9-10, 10-11 - before clinching the title.
"Given the circumstances, that two weeks ago Rennae went down with a broken finger in our match at the French, and now here she is and we've won our first title of the year, it's amazing," Raymond said. "It's a tribute to her and her hard work and how much she wants it and it's a great way to lead into Wimbledon."
"I'm just stoked," Stubbs said. "It's been a while since I last won a title and there were moments today when I was a little nervous, but Lisa kept me in it. Bottom line, it's just nice to feel that feeling again and to do it for my best friend. I didn't think I would even be playing Wimbledon. I didn't hit for two weeks.
"That's the beauty of playing on grass, serve and volley; it proves that the old way of playing doubles still works on the grass courts."