Aussie Gold For Anastasia
Published October 11, 2010 12:00
DELHI, India - This time last year she was still a Russian citizen. Now Anastasia Rodionova is a Commonwealth Games gold medalist for her adopted country, Australia, having beaten Indian heroine Sania Mirza in the final of the event's singles competition, 63 26 76(3).
In fact, the 28-year-old Melbourne-based player leaves Delhi with three medals, having also won the women's doubles with Sally Peers, and bagged silver in the mixed with Paul Hanley.
Top-seeded Rodionova, enjoying a career-high ranking of No.62, made the better start in her match against Mirza, who failed to hold serve in the first set. But Mirza, the No.2 seed on a ranking of No.137, showed customary fight to level proceedings to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Indeed, as the match edged towards its tense conclusion, both players had to contend with intrusive actions from boisterous fans. With Rodionova serving for victory at 6-5 in the decider, a member of the press gallery three times called out "choke!" as she prepared to strike the ball.
Mirza saved three match points in that game but, facing three more in the ensuing tie-break, she issued a first-service fault. As she prepared for her next delivery, a fan called out, "Sania belongs to India and India belongs to Sania.'' However well-intended, the remark didn't help: Mirza served her ninth double fault to conclude the match.
"I have been trying really hard but now I feel I am a real Australian,'' said an elated Rodionova, who this year has also played a key role in Australia's reinstatement to the Fed Cup World Group, her exploits including a rousing upset of Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko in April.
In the doubles final, which also went to three sets, Rodionova and Peers beat compatriots Jessica Moore and Olivia Rogowska, 63 26 63. Earlier, Peers had beaten Rogowska for the singles bronze medal. In the doubles, Mirza and Rushmi Chakravarthi won the bronze medal play-off over Poojashree Venkatesha and Nirupama Sanjeev, also from the host nation.
But an Aussie sweep of the top prizes was blocked by a hard-fought mixed doubles final, in which top-seeded Rodionova and Hanley relinquished a 4-0 first-set lead on their way to being upset by Scotland's Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae, 76(7) 67(2) 62.
The Commonwealth of Nations is comprised of 54 nations. First held in Hamilton, Canada in 1930 as the British Empire Games, the sporting showcase is being hosted by India for the first time. Tennis has always been on the approved list of Commonwealth Games sports, but Delhi marks the first time a medal competition has been staged.