Kirilenko's Déjà Vu, Pennetta Wins Too

Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta won on Day 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Published February 20, 2012 12:00

Kirilenko's Déjà Vu, Pennetta Wins Too
Maria Kirilenko

DUBAI, UAE - The first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships kicked off Monday, with Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta both winning on center court, one seeing déjà vu and another beating one of her best friends.

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Kirilenko was the first to win, taking 11 straight games from 3-1 down in the first set to beat Monica Niculescu, 63 60. Five years ago at this tournament, in this round, on this court and against this opponent, Kirilenko won by this scoreline - but it was still revenge for the Russian, who had lost their other two meetings.

"One year I played against Niculescu here on center court and I won, 63 60, the same," Kirilenko remembered. "Today there were some very close games I lost at the start, but I was doing everything right and coming to the net. She was better in those games but I continued to play the same way, then it was better.

"I liked my forehand a lot today. I was playing it well from each position on the court, I think. I was enjoying that shot today and having a lot of fun out there."

Kirilenko has had a strong start to the season, highlighted by reaching her 10th WTA final at Pattaya City. "I'm quite happy because normally I don't start the season really well. Two years ago I did quarterfinals at the Australian Open, then I didn't do anything until after French Open. So now I feel I'm playing more consistently, and I'm winning all the matches I should, which is a good thing."

Pennetta followed with a 63 63 win over good friend Anabel Medina Garrigues. Pennetta and Medina Garrigues also had a close history with each other, the Italian edging ahead to 5-3 in their head-to-head series with the victory.

"The wind made it hard to control the ball, and it was not easy because she's one of my best friends," Pennetta said. "It's not easy to play against your friend on the court. But tennis is like this - you have to get on the court and try to play your best tennis all the time. It wasn't easy but I'm happy I won."

Pennetta, a former Top 10 player, is now No.28 in the rankings. "Last week I was No.21 and because I lost second round in Doha I went to No.28. But every week you have a chance to improve and go back up. It's not easy every week to defend all the points you made the year before. But if you start thinking too much about winning and losing points and your ranking, for me personally it's better to just not think about it because I'll get really nervous.

"I'm just trying to improve my tennis. I just try to focus on playing well, because if I do, I can win so many matches - if I play badly, I don't win any."

The Italian was asked about her goals for this year. "I don't like to put big goals because when you put them too high and don't get them, it's frustrating. I prefer to take it step by step and just play each match. Of course the Olympic Games are really important, though, and I would also like to get back to the Top 20 and to finish the year in that position, No.15, No.13, something like that."

In the only other daytime match, Shahar Peer won an all-wildcard battle with Oman's Fatma Al Nabhani, 63 61. Peer improved to 8-2 in Dubai with the win.

The feature night match saw Julia Goerges rally from 62 31 down to beat three-time Dubai finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, 26 76(2) 64. It was a very close affair, with the two only separated by three points: Goerges 101, Kuznetsova 98.

"It wasn't the best beginning for me, but one of hers probably. She overwhelmed me with her shots," Goerges said. "I just tried to get back into it, playing more balls in the court and fighting for every ball. I got my chance and took it."

In the late match, No.8 seed Jelena Jankovic beat Petra Cetkovska, 62 62.

Iveta Benesova, Simona Halep, Petra Martic and Aleksandra Wozniak secured berths in the main draw with wins in the final round of qualifying.

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