Italian Veteran Brianti Wins First WTA Title
Published April 24, 2011 12:00
FÈS, Morocco - Experience trumped youth in Fès on a rainy Sunday afternoon, as 31-year-old Alberta Brianti hit her big forehand and one-handed backhands to perfection to score a 64 63 win over 19-year-old Simona Halep, capturing her first WTA title at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem.
Brianti, unseeded at the clay court event - the only WTA stop in Africa, at least until next year - raced out to a 5-2 lead against Halep when a lengthy rain delay halted play. When they retook the court Halep rallied to 5-4 and had a point for 5-all, but Brianti won three points in a row to tuck the set away. There were five straight breaks midway in the second set but again it was Brianti who came out on top, breaking that string with a hold at 5-3 to clinch a straight set win.
"It was a very tough match. Simona is a talented player," Brianti said. "We had to stop for the rain but I was able to keep concentrating and win. I was playing good tennis all week, including today. I'm very happy to win my first title."
Brianti, who was a runner-up to Shahar Peer in her first career final over in Guangzhou, China two years ago, had a smooth progression to this, her second WTA final. She lost just one set all week and rebounded from it in the best way possible, blanking Melanie Oudin in the third set of a 75 57 60 victory in the quarterfinals; in the semifinals, she was granted a walkover from former No.1 Dinara Safina, who pulled out before taking the court due to a GI illness.
"I played so well all week. I was a little bit surprised - we were playing on indoor hardcourts in Moscow for Fed Cup on the weekend, and I came here so late," Brianti added. "I didn't expect to win the tournament at all. In the first round I was down 4-0 with points for 5-0, but then things started going better."
This was the first time Brianti even won back-to-back matches on clay. "It's not my favorite surface, but better late than never! I always try to improve my tennis and the last few years I've really been playing the best tennis of my career.
"This year I started very well in Australia but didn't play so well in Asia. I don't know - it can change week to week, but if you work hard you will have more confidence, and then your results can change and improve at any time."
Halep didn't lose a set en route to the final and even took out one of the tournament's top seeds, No.4 seed Greta Arn. But in the final she didn't have the spark she had the only other time she played Brianti (she won their only previous meeting, 61 61, in the qualifying of Montréal last summer).
No.1-seeded Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Renata Voracova won the doubles title, beating Nina Bratchikova and Sandra Klemenschits in the final in 67 minutes earlier, 63 64. Hlavackova and Voracova won their first WTA title as a team; Hlavackova won her sixth WTA doubles title, Voracova her seventh.