Bartoli Wins In Osaka, Istanbul Still In Reach
Published October 16, 2011 12:00
OSAKA, Japan - With Agnieszka Radwanska just within grasp of the eighth and final berth in the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, Marion Bartoli needed somewhat of a miraculous run in these, the last two weeks of the regular season, to stay in the race. She needed back-to-back titles in Osaka and Moscow, also needing Radwanska to lose her opener in Moscow.
Although Moscow is yet to play out, Bartoli completed her Osaka mission.
As a No.2-seeded wildcard, Bartoli was devastating throughout the week, losing a total of 10 games in her first three matches combined. Then, after rain caused both the semifinals and final to be moved to Sunday's schedule, she continued on her warpath, winning both of them in straight sets: a close 61 76(5) semifinal finish over No.3 seed Angelique Kerber and a routine 63 61 final win over No.1 seed Samantha Stosur, winning 10 of 11 games from 2-3 in the first set.
"I'm very happy with the way I played this week," Bartoli said. "I felt my level dropped in August, especially at the US Open, but now I'm playing well again. Obviously to win a title is great. Now I have two this year, so I'm really happy.
"I love to play in Japan," she added. "I love this country. Everyone is so friendly."
Bartoli now has seven WTA titles, having won three in 2006 (Auckland, Tokyo and Québec City), two in 2009 (Monterrey and Stanford) and now two this year (Eastbourne, where she also won her last two matches in one day, and Osaka).
"I played against Sam then Petra in the same day to win Eastbourne - maybe I should play two matches in one day every time! They are long days but it's very much mental. We are all very good athletes and practice so much, I don't think it's a matter of fitness or stamina. It's how much you have left mentally."
And with Istanbul on the line, Bartoli seems to be playing even better under pressure. How does she assess the situation? "I'm trying not to think a lot about that," the Frenchwoman replied. "I'm very happy with the way I'm playing. I'm going to rush to Moscow now and hope to keep playing well there."
Stosur had a harder path to the final, scraping by Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the first round, 63 36 75, then after winning her next two rounds in straight sets going to three sets again in Sunday morning's semifinals, edging Zheng Jie, 76(5) 36 63. The reigning US Open champion - who already has a berth in the eight-woman finale in Istanbul - fell to 3-10 in her career in WTA finals.
A spot in Istanbul wasn't only on the line on the singles court in Osaka.
Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova could have guaranteed themselves the last berth in the four-team finale in Istanbul by winning the Osaka title. Seeded No.1, they didn't lose a set en route to the final, but then fell just short to No.4 seeds Kimiko Date-Krumm and Zhang Shuai, coming back from triple match point down to even the match tie-break at 9-all, then being edged, 75 36 119.
Date-Krumm took home her second WTA doubles title (her first one came alongside fellow Japanese Ai Sugiyama at this event in 1995, when it was held in Tokyo); Zhang, from China, claimed her first WTA title of any kind.
There was another twist to come for King and Shvedova, however. With the doubles sign-in deadline for this week's WTA event in Luxembourg passed and no Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko on the list, King and Shvedova qualified regardless, with Azarenka and Kirilenko having to win Luxembourg to stay alive in the race - they were the only other team still in the running.