Published July 25, 2010 12:00
PORTOROZ, Slovenia - It had been a while since Anna Chakvetadze conjured up the magic that took her to No.5 in the world a few years ago, but there were flashes of that magic in Portoroz this week, as the Russian won her first title in almost two and a half years at the Banka Koper Slovenia Open.
Little by little, and despite being unseeded, the Chakvetadze momentum kept growing. She won her first two matches in straight sets, including a 61 62 thrashing of No.4 seed Sara Errani in the second round. Errani had been to the final here the last two years, winning in 2008 and finishing runner-up in 2009.
The quarters and semis were a struggle for Chakvetadze, but she really rose to the occasion, saving two match points to beat No.6 seed Vera Dushevina in the quarterfinals, 26 63 75, then rebounding after a first set blowout to defeat No.7 seed Polona Hercog, 06 62 62 - in front of her Slovenian home crowd.
"The quarterfinal and semifinal matches were the toughest of the week for me," Chakvetadze said. "Against Dushevina I didn't play well but still won - it's good when you don't play your best and win, because after that you play better."
Chakvetadze, who won her eighth career title, and first since Paris in February 2008, cruised past first-time finalist Johanna Larsson in 61 minutes, 61 62.
"This was my ninth final and Johanna's first, so I don't think she was as comfortable as me today," Chakvetadze said. "I was very concentrated and didn't give her many free points, so I'm very happy with my performance."
During 2006 and 2007, Chakvetadze put together a sparkling 96-40 record (71%), reaching a career-high No.5 in September 2007 after her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open. Between the start of 2008 and coming into this week she had a 55-55 record (50%); on May 17 this year, she was out of the Top 100 for the first time in almost six years (she broke the Top 100 in September 2004).
Five straight wins here may be a sign of a career rebound for the 23-year-old, No.103-ranked Chakvetadze, who returns to the Top 75 by virtue of this title.
"Right now I'm far away from No.5. I've struggled so much, but finally I have this win," Chakvetadze said. "Last year was really tough for me. I hope this year will be better. I'm not at the same level I used to be... but I'm close."
Larsson had reached her first career quarterfinal last week in Prague and this week made it all the way to her first final. The 21-year-old cracked the Top 100 this year and among her victims en route to the title match was No.3 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, whom she beat handily in the quarters, 63 62.
"Anna played really well today. I did everything I could," Larsson said. "I wasn't really nervous. It was my first final but I was relaxed. I thought I could win but it didn't happen. It was my first final and I'm happy with how things went here.
"If I was told a month ago I'd have these results, I wouldn't believe it."
In the doubles final, Maria Kondratieva and Vladimira Uhlirova upheld their No.2 seeding with a 64 26 107 win over Chakvetadze and Marina Erakovic. Kondratieva and Uhlirova were playing together for the seventh time but had a losing record together before this week - now they win their first title together (it was Kondratieva's first Tour doubles title and Uhlirova's fourth).