Azarenka Wins Marbella, Breaks Into Top 5
Published April 10, 2011 12:00
MARBELLA, Spain - Victoria Azarenka's hot streak continued as she won her second straight WTA title at the first tournament of the European clay court season, the Andalucía Tennis Experience. By virtue of winning the title she is also the second Belarusian ever to reach the Top 5, joining Natasha Zvereva.
Azarenka, who won the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami last week, came to Marbella a few days later and picked up right where she left off, beginning with a 62 63 first round win over Arantxa Parra Santonja on Wednesday and winning one match a day Thursday, Friday and Saturday en route to Sunday's final.
On the other half of the draw, Irina-Camelia Begu was breaking new ground. Having fallen first round in her only two previous WTA main draws and as a qualifier here in her third, the Romanian reached the quarters without losing a set then pulled off upsets over No.6 seed Klara Zakopalova and No.2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova (in a three-hour-plus marathon) to make the final.
The run would come to an end however, as Azarenka was just too powerful in the final and won comfortably, 63 62. They had several long games - including a five deuce game midway through the opening set - but with the exception of losing serve in the first game of the second set, Azarenka was always ahead.
Nobody has lost fewer games en route to a WTA title so far this year, Azarenka losing only 19 (the previous-lowest was Caroline Wozniacki's 25 in Dubai).
"It was unusual to go from Miami on hardcourts to here on clay and do so well. I'm more than pleased with the experience," Azarenka said. "It was important just to keep my mind fresh and do the same things I did in Miami. I used to practice here when I was 14, so coming here brings me back - I love it here."
Azarenka's 11-match win streak moves her from No.6 to No.5, joining Zvereva on the short list of Belarusian Top 5 players (Zvereva peaked at No.5).
Begu is projected to make her Top 100 debut on the new rankings.
"Everybody from home has been calling me and supporting me. It has been a great week," Begu said. "Victoria is playing great tennis. Coming from the qualifying and playing three hours yesterday was a bit tough, but I'm happy with my week. My goal this year was to be Top 100, so now I'm hoping for Top 50!"
"She has a very good game, especially for clay," Azarenka said of Begu. "She has a big serve too. If she keeps going like this she can bring some big results."
Spaniards Nuria Llagostera Vives and Parra Santonja won the doubles title earlier in the day, beating top seeds and defending champions Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the final, 36 64 105. The No.3-seeded Spaniards were down 63 30 to the Italians before rallying to win their second WTA doubles title together, following another win in Spain - Barcelona in 2007.
"It was a great effort coming back from 3-0 down in the second set. We changed our attitude," Parra Santonja said after winning her fourth WTA doubles title. "This tournament is incredible. Hopefully we have more like this in Spain."
"We didn't start as well as we thought we could, but we started to support each other and play with heart," Llagostera Vives, who now has 14 WTA doubles titles, said. "This is our third time playing together this year and we're feeling more and more comfortable now. We're improving a lot in every match."