Back From The Brink, Dokic Crowned In KL
Published March 06, 2011 12:00
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - She was twice just a forehand away from losing but Jelena Dokic showed her vintage fight in the final of the BMW Malaysian Open on Sunday night, winning her first WTA title in over eight and a half years with a come-from-behind 26 76(9) 64 victory over No.5 seed Lucie Safarova.
Over the last several years Dokic had shown glimpses of her former greatness, most memorably her run to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in 2009. But it has been a while since those glimpses came in bunches, until now.
Having recently reached the quarterfinals of the Premier-level Open GDF SUEZ in Paris, where it took Kim Clijsters to stop her, Dokic's fire was still burning as she came to Kuala Lumpur. She rallied from a set and a break down to upset No.1 seed Francesca Schiavone in the first round then made it all the way to the final, where a No.5-seeded Safarova was awaiting, on fire herself.
Safarova had upset No.2 seed Marion Bartoli en route to the final and came out very strong indeed, going up 62 53 and even holding two match points in the second set tie-break, one at 6-5 and one at 8-7; she missed forehands on both of them, however, and eventually found herself in a third set. The Czech built another lead in the decider, 3-1, but Dokic fought back again, winning four of the next five games to lead 5-4 and completing the victory on her third match point, a huge service winner to complement her 13 aces during the match.
"Lucie beat so many good players to reach the final this week. I don't know how I came back against her today," Dokic declared. "This is my second time in Malaysia - I was here 10 years ago for the first time so it has been a while. But I've been here nearly two weeks this time and it has been fantastic.
"I don't know where I pulled it out from today but I did. I even surprised myself... and when you start winning matches and titles, your appetite only gets bigger."
Dokic ended several dry periods: first WTA semifinal in seven years (Tokyo in February 2004) and first WTA final in eight years (Zürich in October 2003); her last WTA title came nine years ago (Birmingham in June 2002). The Aussie's win over No.5-ranked French Open winner Schiavone was also her first Top 5 win since that week in Zürich (a semifinal win over then-No.1 Kim Clijsters).
It was Dokic's sixth WTA title, her first five being Rome, Tokyo and Moscow in 2001 and Sarasota and Birmingham in 2002; she is now 6-7 in career finals.
"Thanks to everyone who made this event possible, it was a pleasure to play here," the 27-year-old Dokic said to the crowd. "I have to especially thank the two people who were here with me, my boyfriend and my brother. I love you guys. Without you I wouldn't have been able to do this. I hope to come back next year and try to play well again here. Now I have to try and make my flight!"
Safarova, who fell to 4-5 in career finals, was very complimentary towards Dokic: "First of all, congratulations to Jelena. She played very well today and deserved to win," the 24-year-old said on court. "It was my first time in Malaysia and I enjoyed it. It was a very nice experience. I hope to come back next year.
"I gave everything I could into this match but Jelena hit more winners than I did."