Russia’s Maria Kirilenko bounced back from a set down to defeat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) in an enthralling singles final at the 2013 PTT Pattaya Women’s Open on Sunday, Feb. 3 to claim her first WTA Tour title in 5 years.
On finals day the stadium at the Dusit Thani Pattaya tennis center was transformed into something more reminiscent of a Moscow or St. Petersburg amphitheatre for a Davis Cup match, as a huge Russian contingent arrived to give enthusiastic vocal support to the tournament’s number 2 seed.
Maria Kirenko (center-right) and Sabine Lisicki (center-left) parade their trophies with (L to R) Chatchawal Supachayanont, General Manager Dusit Thani Pattaya; Pornthep Noprujikul, former member of the Chonburi PAO; Sarakorn Kulatham, Executive Vice President (International) of PTT PCL; Suwat Liptapanlop, President of the Thai Lawn Tennis Association; Ittipol Khunpluem, Mayor of Pattaya City; and Chana Pankaew, Event & Sponsorship Manager, Thai Beverage Marketing Co., Ltd.
In a tense but high quality opening to the match both players fought hard to gain an advantage, with Lisicki’s big serve and ground stokes being countered by her opponent’s subtle all-court game. After swapping a couple of early breaks the match settled down and went with serve until with the score standing at 6-5 to Lisicki, Kirilenko was the first to blink as she missed a forehand long on a critical point to hand the first set to her younger opponent.
The match really turned on its head however at the start of the second set. After holding serve, Lisicki had three break points in the next game to take what could have been a decisive 2-0 lead. Instead, Kirilenko dug deep into her resources and eventually hung on to hold serve and even up the scores.
Russia’s Maria Kirilenko reacts after winning the singles final at the 2013 PTT Pattaya Women’s Open.
All indications were that the second set would then follow a similar pattern to the first, however Lisicki’s form began to desert her just when she need it most and she promptly lost the next 8 games on the bounce, offering little resistance as Kirilenko grew in confidence and started to dictate the pattern of each point.
Germany’s Sabine Lisicki fires a backhand winner down the line.
Staring defeat in the face at 5-2 down and 15-40 in the final set, Lisicki suddenly threw caution to the wind and the match was to witness yet another remarkable swing of momentum. Fending off three match points, the German starlet held her own serve and then set about breaking her opponent’s – not once but twice.
Kirilenko could barely believe what was happening as she saw her lead evaporate and at 5-6 down suddenly she was the one needing to break serve to stay in the match. Lisicki’s powerful serve had proved a potent weapon in the deciding set as she sent down a succession of booming aces, however, with a chance to serve out for the title the nerves appeared to take over and the German’s service game began to misfire. Kirilenko saw an opportunity and pounced to break back and take the match into a tie-break.
The graceful Kirilenko serves to Lisicki during the opening set.
Showing all the experience of her 10 years on the pro tour, Kirilenko stormed into a 5-0 lead in the tie-breaker and this time she wasn’t about to let her opponent off the hook. At 6-1 to the Russian, Lisicki’s backhand flew just wide of the line and Kirilenko sank to her knees, raising her arms in triumph. The match had lasted 2 hours and 37 minutes and had been a captivating spectacle throughout.
“I had a birthday just before the tournament started and had a cake in my room with some candles, and I made a wish. The wish was to win this tournament and I think it was good one because it came true,” Kirielko told the crowd following the trophy presentation.
“I was a little disappointed in the third set,” she added. “I was kicking myself for losing the 5-2 lead and then somehow I returned her serves at 6-5 and it was a tiebreak and then I started to feel I can win it again.”
The win was just the sixth title of Kirilenko’s career and her first since beating Martinez-Sanchez in Barcelona in 2008. As well as picking up the first prize of $40,000, Kirilenko also garnered 280 valuable ranking points to go with the crown.
In the doubles final which followed immediately afterwards, Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm and Australian Casey Dellacqua easily defeated Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amanmuradova and Russia’s Alexandra Panova 6-3, 6-2.