Hantuchova comes from behind to defend Pattaya Open crown

Friday, 17 February 2012 From Issue Vol. XX No. 7

Third seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia beat Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in a tense and exciting final to defend her title at the PTT Pattaya Open tennis tournament held at the Dusit Thani Pattaya last Sunday.   At 3 hours, 14 minutes in duration, the match was just 10 minutes short of the longest WTA final ever played.

“It feels great,” said Hantuchova, who defended a title for the first time and was also her first since winning in Pattaya last year.  “I thought it was an incredible match.  Maria was playing really well and we were fighting for every single point.  Even though I lost the first set very closely I just kept going and didn’t really look back and always just tried to focus on the next point.  That was the key.  This is special for me.”

Doubles winners Sania Mirza (left) and Anastasia Rodionova pose with their trophies. (Photo/PTT Pattaya Open)Doubles winners Sania Mirza (left) and Anastasia Rodionova pose with their trophies. (Photo/PTT Pattaya Open)

Both players managed to sustain a very high level of performance from beginning to end, and if anything the final set produced some of the best tennis as neither player showed any signs of fatigue.

For defending champion Hantuchova the match could hardly have started in a worse fashion however as she dropped her serve with a double-fault in the first game.  She was then forced to hold off a break point at 2-3 and another at 3-4 before eventually pulling level at 5-5.

The Slovak star had not dropped a set in any of her previous matches leading up to the final, but in the tie-break it was Kirilenko who showed the greater composure and she took the first set when Hantuchova netted a backhand at 6-3.

Chatchawal Supachayanont, GM of Dusit Thani Pattaya congratulates Daniela Hantuchova at Sunday’s conclusion of the 2012 PTT Pattaya Open.Chatchawal Supachayanont, GM of Dusit Thani Pattaya congratulates Daniela Hantuchova at Sunday’s conclusion of the 2012 PTT Pattaya Open.

The second set was decided early when Kirilenko’s serve was broken and Hantuchova held off two break points in the next game to take a three one lead.  Kirilenko fought back gamely and forced two further break points but was unable to capitalize on either as her opponent defended superbly and eventually broke the Russian again to take the set 6-3.

Maria Kirilenko hits a return on her way to winning the first set tie-break.Maria Kirilenko hits a return on her way to winning the first set tie-break.

At one set all Kirilenko called on the trainer for treatment on a right hip injury that had forced her out of the Australian Open in January.  To the relief of the spectators she was able to continue and showed no apparent discomfort as the match reached its climax.

Following the extended break both players appeared to have gone off the boil slightly as they lost their opening service games to love.  However, the tennis thereafter was simply top drawer and included several lengthy rallies that brought the crowd to their feet.

With the title in the balance, Kirilenko first serve appeared to desert her at the crucial moment and after holding off three break points in game four she was eventually broken in game eight when she double faulted at 30-40.  Hantuchova served out the match in the following game with the help of two forehand winners down the line to take the title for the second year running.

Kirilenko could draw some comfort from even reaching the final after her injury at the Australian Open had prevented her from practicing in the lead up to this event.

Daniela Hantuchova smashes a forehand winner during the second set of the final.Daniela Hantuchova smashes a forehand winner during the second set of the final.

“I’m disappointed to lose in the final,” she said.  “But if I look back I almost lost the first match so I’m trying take the positive things from the tournament.   After the Australian Open I didn’t play for nine days because I was injured, and today I was in the final so I think it’s a good result still.”

For the champion Hantuchova, as well as enjoying the US$37,000 winner’s cheque she said she was also planning on a change of diet after maintaining a winning routine throughout the week-long tournament.  She said she had eaten chicken fried rice and salad for the past seven days, and was looking forward to trying something different.

“It could be a pizza or anything.  I also kept eating the same thing in Indian Wells and I won there,” she said.

In the doubles final, also played on Sunday, India’s Sania Mirza and her Australian partner Anastasia Rodionova beat Hao-ching Chan and Yung-jan Chan of Chinese Taipei after coming back from a set down.  The top seeds showed great fighting quality to force their way back into the match, eventually take the title in a nail-biting tie-break.  The final score was 3-6, 6-1, 10-8.

(Sources - AP/Pentangle Promotions)

All square as the match goes down to the wire.All square as the match goes down to the wire.

Spectators enjoyed a thrilling contest.Spectators enjoyed a thrilling contest.

Kirikenko serves to Hantuchova during the final of the 2012 PTT Pattaya Open.Kirikenko serves to Hantuchova during the final of the 2012 PTT Pattaya Open.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 February 2012 14:30
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