Martínez Sánchez Wins First Hardcourt Title
Published September 25, 2011 12:00
SEOUL, South Korea - For the first time in more than five and a half years, a Spaniard has conquered a hardcourt tournament on the WTA: María José Martínez Sánchez captured the Hansol Korea Open crown on Sunday, beating first-time WTA finalist Galina Voskoboeva in the final, 76(0) 76(2).
Before this week, Martínez Sánchez had reached five WTA finals, winning four of them - but they all came on clay. In Seoul her unique game style finally took her to a hardcourt final, and as the No.6 seed she didn't even lose a set along the way, including in a 76(6) 61 quarterfinal upset over No.3 seed Julia Goerges.
Meanwhile, an unseeded Voskoboeva was also on, her big serve and powerful groundstrokes taking her to the final without losing a set either, and producing two upsets - No.8 seed Ekaterina Makarova and No.5 seed Polona Hercog.
But Martínez Sánchez - who often complements her tricky lefty serve with impressive net play, but is also as solid as a rock from the baseline - played a pair of clutch tie-breaks to prevail on the day. The 29-year-old Spaniard blanked the 26-year-old Kazakh in the first set tie-break, 7-0, then after fighting off three set points earlier in the set rolled through the second set breaker, 7-2.
"I felt very calm in the tie-breaks. That was the key for me," Martínez Sánchez said. "I felt I played well the whole match. I like coming to net and I think it also makes my opponents uncomfortable, so it works well. But Galina played well - this was my toughest match of the week. I had to fight until the end."
Martínez Sánchez now has five WTA titles to her name, her first four coming at Bogotá and Bastad in 2009, Rome in 2010 and Bad Gastein this year. She is the first Spaniard to win a WTA title on hardcourts since Anabel Medina Garrigues prevailed in Canberra, the capital of Australia, in January 2006.
"I can't say how happy I am to win my first hardcourt title," Martínez Sánchez said when asked about her personal first. "Rafael Nadal, Feliciano López, Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Verdasco... they are the golden age of Spanish tennis right now. But the women players are also working very hard."
Voskoboeva was playing her first WTA final on any surface. Before this week she had only been to one WTA semifinal in her career, at Baku in July.
In an all-Top 2 doubles final, No.1 seeds Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova beat No.2 seeds Voskoboeva and Vera Dushevina, 76(5) 64. It was a milestone for the 30-year-old Grandin, who collected her first WTA title (she had been 0-10 in WTA doubles finals beforehand); Uhlirova, 33, won her fifth WTA doubles title (she is now 5-12 in her career in WTA doubles finals).