Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Dokic stuns Schiavone in Malaysia.
After a slow start a steely Jelena Dokic dispatched top seed Francesca Schiavone in the first round of the BMW Malaysian Open on Monday. The 2-6 7-6(1) 6-4 win marks the 27-year-old former world No.4's first victory over a Top 5 opponent since she beat then-No.1 Kim Clijsters at Zürich in 2003.
Currently ranked No.91, Dokic went into today's match with a 2-0 head-to-head record against her Italian rival - not counting junior tussles - but they hadn't played in almost a decade. And while Dokic was an easy winner in their last meeting at Moscow in 2001, for a while it seemed fifth-ranked Schiavone would finally have revenge as she raced to a 3-0 lead.
But then the rains came, and while the suspension of play didn't deter Schiavone's march for long, the break did give Dokic a chance to regroup. Returning to the court, the Australian held serve for the first time, duly breaking to close the gap to 3-2 before Schiavone broke again to seal the opener.
"Francesca plays with a lot more topspin than other girls, and it was hard to get used to," said Dokic. "She was putting pressure on me, my serve was not working and I just made too many mistakes in the beginning. But after the rain, even though I lost the first set I tried to be more aggressive and I started to play better."
Indeed, even though three consecutive Dokic double faults handed Schiavone the opening game of the second set, the Australian broke right back. Ten straight service holds followed, leading to a tie-break where fate intervened: With Dokic ahead 3-1, Schiavone took a tumble, didn't win another point in the breaker, and duly took a medical time out for treatment on her right ankle.
Even so, games remained on serve until 2-2 in the decider, when Dokic made the critical breakthrough for 3-2, with her own serve to come. After Schiavone missed an immediate break-back opportunity, Dokic conceded just one point in each of her next service games to close it out.
"Sometimes when you see your opponent get injured you have to be a lot more focused so you don't drop your level," said Dokic. "You can't think that she will not play well. She went for some risky shots early in the rally, so I had to be ready for that. But I think I served really well in the third set."
On the significance of the win after years of well-documented struggle with injury, illness and personal issues, Dokic added: "I already had a good tournament this year in Paris, I beat Top 20 and Top 25 player there. I had tough draws in Dubai and Doha and again here, so this is a big win for me.
"I'm still not as consistent as I want to be - there are still some weeks where I don't play up to my high standard. But this year I'm playing WTA events every week and it's making a difference. Thank God, no injuries... my body is great and hopefully it will stay that way."
"I love the sport and I respect the fact that people came to watch, so I don't like to retire," said Schiavone of her decision to see the match through. "Maybe sometimes I shouldn't think like this, because I think it made it worse. But for sure the fans helped me to keep going. They appreciate the way that I play, and I want to come back and do better. Tonight Jelena fought and she deserved it."
Two other seeds were in action on Monday. No.5 seed Lucie Safarova powered home against 17-year-old Kazakh Zarina Diyas, 7-5 6-1, while No.6 seed Ayumi Morita breezed past Darya Kustova, 6-2 6-0. Zhang Shuai, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and wildcard Urszula Radwanska also notched first round wins, while the four qualifying spots were secured by Anne Kremer, Lu Jing-Jing, Sun Shengnan and Tetiana Luzhanska.