Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won her first premier WTA title today in Paris, and what a tournament it was to win. The entire week was full of tense and thrilling tennis, and the unseeded Russian provided us with a lot of it. Pavlyuchenkova took out three top 10 players, including top seed Maria Sharapova, to get to the trophy. Every one of her five Paris matches went three sets, and in four of them, she dropped the first set.
I suppose we can stop talking about Pavlyuchenkova's fitness problem.
Today, the Russian had to deal with the always-fast, always-tough Sara Errani, who won the first set 6-4. There was no doubt that both women were tired. One had to assume that Errani may have been the worse for wear since she was also involved in doubles until she and her partner gave their semifinal opponents a walkover yesterday. But the fact that both of them had to be exhausted somehow made the final even better, and it seemed inevitable that the last match would go three sets.
All week long, Pavlyuchenkova kind of played her way into these long matches. At times, she looked over-anxious, but she always turned her attitude around and--once she was calm--played with power and aggression. I like to watch Pavlyuchenkova because I think she does so many things well. She can hit with a lot of power, but she also possesses unusually good anticipation and more often than not, gets exactly where she needs to be in order to strike the ball to her optimal benefit. After she won the second set 6-2, she looked primed to repeat the kind of performance that led to survival on the last day.
And she did. Watching Errani struggle so hard with her serve in the second set seemed to light a fire under the Russian's own serve. In the final set, which she won 6-3, Pavlyuchenkova earned first and second serve win percentages of 75 and 70. Errani kept up the defensive fight until the very end, but she was overcome by Pavlyuchenkova's ability to dictate the points. Why, one has to wonder, does Errani not hire a service coach and spend some time improving what is a real weakness in her otherwise amazing game?
Both players were going for a first premier title. Errani was the runner-up last year, also, when she lost in the final to Mona Barthel. Pavlyuchenkova, by the way, added to the occasion by delivering her acceptance speech in French.
3rd seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke won the doubles title. In today's title, they defeated Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic 6-7, 6-4, 10-5.
I wasn't able to see Marion Bartoli's retirement ceremony, but I imagine it will be popping up on YouTube some time soon. If you haven't checked out Andrew Krasny's interview with Bartoli (it's part of the WTA All Access Hour in Paris), do so. All interviews with Bartoli are great, but this one is especially charming.
Of course, it's always very special to see tournament co-director Amelie Mauresmo, one of my favorite players of all time. And speaking of Frenchwomen, the week wouldn't have been nearly as thrilling and entertaining had it not been for semifinalist Alize Cornet, who played her heart out in marathon matches until she was finally taken out of competition by Errani. Cornet was definitely one to watch (she has that "French flair" Mary Carillo talks about) at the beginning of her career, then she hit some bad times. But now, with increased fitness and more emotional control, the young Frenchwoman is definitely one to watch again.
And now a few words about Tennis Channel, which went all ESPN on us over the weekend. Tennis Channel has a new feature, "Center Court," which includes central narration from the TC studio while parts of various matches from around the world are shown. Yesterday, both Paris and Davis Cup were showcased. Tennis Channel showed the first two sets and most of the third set of the very thrilling Errani-Cornet match, and then--right before it would be determined whether there would be a third set tiebreak--poof! They began showing Davis Cup instead.
Only the Davis Cup rubber hadn't begun. Tennis Channel left the Errani-Cornet match before anyone knew whether there would be a champion or a tiebreak, and they never returned to it. They showed the Davis Cup players entering the stadium and walking onto the court. They showed the coin toss. They sat around their desk and chatted about Davis Cup.
When a match is close to ending, and especially if there's a third set tiebreak, it would be inappropriate, to say the least, to cut away from it to show the beginning of another match. But there wasn't even another match being played! I felt a mixture of disbelief and disgust when this happened, and thank the tennis gods that Tennis TV exists (and with better commentary). Tennis Channel: What the hell were you thinking?