Sunday, February 13, 2011

Daniela stops Vera's dream hat-trick.

What a difference a week makes: Last weekend, Daniela Hantuchova lost both her Fed Cup singles rubbers against the Czech Republic, and admitted to feeling short of match practice and uncomfortable on the court. But in the semifinals of the PTT Pattaya Open on Saturday, the 27-year-old was at her fluid best as she dispatched top seed and two-time defending champion Vera Zvonareva, 7-6(3) 6-4.

Hantuchova's opponent in Sunday's final will be eighth seed Sara Errani, who was first to advance at the expense of her close friend and fellow Italian, Roberta Vinci, 6-1 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Vinci was coming off a quarterfinal upset of No.2 seed Ana Ivanovic, but her serve was put under constant pressure by her 23-year-old compatriot. Keeping her own first service percentage above a healthy 70%, Errani converted on four of 11 break opportunities, with Vinci only able to claw back one break from three chances.

The second semi was a far more closely contested affair, games going on serve until 5-5 before Zvonareva drew first blood. But with the Russian serving for the first set at 6-5, fourth-seeded Hantuchova broke back to force a tie-break, which she clinched on her second set point when Zvonareva sent a ball long.

Set two followed a similar pattern until a confident Hantuchova, making clever use of angles and playing close to the lines, broke for 4-3. She then held for 5-3, and, helped by three double faults from Zvonareva, held three match points on the Russian's serve.

But a fired-up Zvonareva held on, forcing Hantuchova to serve for the match. This she eventually did on her fifth match point, but not before Zvonareva had relinquished three break back points - the last of which involved an overrule from the umpire and a protracted discussion between the player and the chair.

"I just fought like crazy for every point," said Hantuchova after registering her sixth career win over a Top 5 opponent (and first since 2007) and improving her record against Zvonareva to 2-4.

"She's No.3 in the world and she's a great fighter, very smart. But I think I played one of my best matches in the last few years. I don't know how I made some of the balls, especially the passing shot to go deuce in the 5-4 game… I think it was one of the best shots I ever hit."

Her defeat, which she attributed to lapses of focus and a classy opponent, brought an end to Zvonareva's 13-match winning streak at the Thai resort.

"I was not able to play at the level that I wanted, and against such as good player as Daniela you want to really lift the level of your game," Zvonareva said. "It's tough to say what's going to happen next year, but I love playing in Pattaya. I won here twice and when I arrive at the hotel everyone says to me welcome back home. It's a great thing, so hopefully I can come back."

Hantuchova holds a 2-1 head-to-head lead over Errani, their last meeting being at Cincinnati in 2009, which the Slovak won in three sets. Sunday's final marks her first since Monterrey almost 12 months ago; she'll be gunning for her first title since Linz in 2007, and fourth overall. Errani owns two WTA titles and is playing her first final since Portoroz in 2009.

"It feels great to be in another final… I just hope to go all the way this time," said Hantuchova. "It's been quite some time since my last title, so I'm really hungry for another one. The main thing tomorrow is to keep focused but also enjoy myself. "

1 comment:

Abbey said...

Career revival for Daniela? Where was this Daniela in the AO!?

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