Begu Shocks Sveta In Semis
Published April 09, 2011 11:33
MARBELLA, Spain - Victoria Azarenka's winning streak extended to 10 matches on Saturday when the 21-year-old won her semifinal at the Andalucía Tennis Experience. If she wants to make that 11 and lift the trophy on Sunday, the $220,000 tournament's top seed will have to get past a surprise opponent: Romanian qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu.
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Begu, currently ranked No.138 in the world, earned her place in the final with a hard fought upset of No.2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 36 76(3) 64. To her credit, the 20-year-old didn't capitulate after losing the first, or indeed panic when her own winning position seemed to have been overturned by the accomplished world No.14.
After Kuznetsova won the first set, Begu responded by breaking in the first game of the second, and with another break found herself with a 4-0 lead. She even had a point for 5-0, but Kuznetsova fought it off and embarked on a four-game surge to draw level. The pair then exchanged breaks for 5-5, and then held their respective deliveries to force the tie-break, where Begu was always in control to force the decider.
The final set followed a similar pattern, Begu moving to 3-0 on a single break of serve. Again Kuznetsova drew level, and even held two break points for 4-3. But Begu held on, and broke for 5-3. While serving for the match proved too much for the young Romanian to handle in the next game, she immediately broke the Russian again to close it out on her second match point.
"I'm very happy - I feel very good but very tired," said Begu after her three hour 10 minute effort. "I have just been playing round by round and I went out to enjoy today's match."
"I'm very sad that I lost this match," said two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova. "I had my chances to win but I didn't take them. It was very close throughout but she played a very good game."
For her part, Azarenka had an easier time of it than she might have expected against eighth-seeded Sara Errani - although not quite as easy as the 62 61 scoreline might suggest.
"There were a lot of close games - I just managed to play better at the important moments," said the world No.6, who will be contesting her 13th WTA final. "Tomorrow I won't be thinking about the ranking of my opponent or anything like that. I take it as another match, and we'll see."
Before this week, Begu - who started the year at No.234 - had never won a main draw match at WTA level; this week marks just her third tour main draw, and her quarterfinal defeat of world No.34 Klara Zakopalova was her first over a Top 50 player. Looking ahead to the biggest occasion of her career, she commented: "It will be very difficult, Azarenka is playing incredible. But I have nothing to lose and it's a great opportunity. I will try to enjoy it and hope I play well. There are a lot of Romanians here coming to support me, which is nice."
The last qualifier to reach a WTA singles final was Tamira Paszek, who won the title at Québec City last year. The last Romanian to win a WTA title was Alexandra Dulgheru, who defended her Warsaw Open last May.
There was consolation for Errani in the doubles when she partnered with Roberta Vinci to edge Vitalia Diatchenko and Monica Niculescu for a place in the final, 26 76(2) 105. The top-seeded Italians meet third-seeded Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja for the title; the Spaniards advanced when Dinara Safina and Agnes Szavay retired in the first set due to a lower back injury suffered by Szavay.
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