Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pavlyuchenkova wins see-saw final in Istanbul

I hated watching Elena Vesnina cry on her birthday, but after almost three hours and eleven minutes of unpredictable--and very entertaining--tennis played in vicious heat in Istanbul today, she couldn't stop a few tears from forming. Vesnina--whose talent is undeniable, but whose mental fragility can get in her way--has never won a tour title. Unseeded, she made it to the Istanbul Cup final, taking out Stephanie Voegele, Anastasia Rodionova and 6th seed Andrea Petkovic along the way. And for a while, it looked as though she would walk away with the Istanbul title.

Vesnina's opponent, 3rd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, went up 5-2 in the first set, but then Vesnina caught up and took the set 7-5. Winning six games in a row, she then went up 4-0 in the second set. If this situation seemed too good to be true, it's because it was--Pavlyuchenova then went on a campaign that gave her a 7-5 score in the second set.

By the time the third set began, it was obvious that Vesnina was having problems with the heat. At one point in the set, she looked like she might be cramping, but she held on, icing herself during breaks, and then winning points with her spot-on volleys. A fine doubles player (she was a star during Wimbledon), Vesnina knows her way around the net, and she used her volleying skills repeatedly against Pavlyuchenkova.

But Pavlyuchenkova was obviously the fresher of the two, and she used her crack backhand down the line again and again to win points. Pavlyuchenkova had the momentum, yet Vesnina--even when she looked like she couldn't move--managed to stay with her until they reached 5-all. Pavlyuchenkova broke, then held easily to win her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

During the trophy ceremony, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Vesnina, and, in accepting her trophy, Pavlyuchenkova gave us a gem of broken English (which some may prefer to think of as a Freudian slip): "First of all, I'd like to thank the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for everything they've done to us."

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