Those Italians. When Russia had a medical timeout during one of today's Fed Cup rubbers, the hosts cued up "Funiculi, Funicula" while the trainer was working. Funny. Not so funny was what Roberta Vinci went through to defeat Alexandra Panova. Vinci has been injured for a while, and undoubtedly wasn't expected to be at her best today. To make things tougher, Panova threw everything at her that she had.
I wasn't sure I was even going to watch the Fed Cup final, but when I got up this morning and saw what was going on, I bought my viewing pass. Somewhere in Sardinia, as I write this, poor Panova is probably struggling to stay away from the Chianti (she has to play again tomorrow) and drown her memories of today. The Russian led Vinci 7-5, 5-2, 40-15. She held four match points, and saw them all disappear; Vinci won the three hour and thirteen-minute affair 5-7, 7-5, 8-6.
Sara Errani then defeated Irini Khromacheva 6-1, 6-4. Khromacheva gave the world number 7 something to think about in the second set. The Russian player got her rhythm, used her second serve to her advantage and hit winners off of both sides.
There was more drama at the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, as top seed Simona Halep took on two-time champion and wild card Ana Ivanovic. It was hard not anticipate drama in this semifinal, as a matter of fact. Ivanovic, when she's on, is exactly the kind of player who can give Halep trouble. In this case, the Romanian star was ripe for an upset because of a niggling leg injury.
But you know how it can go with Ana Ivo. She took the first set 6-2, after winning five games in a row. Halep's serve was off, and she was making too many unforced errors. Between sets, Halep received medical treatment for her injury, then calmly walked back onto the court, made the needed adjustments, and won four games in a row. She took the second set 6-1.
"Momentum" isn't a four-letter word, but it might as well have been in this match. Because, before you could say "I'd like the next flight to Belgrade," Halep was down two breaks and serving at 1-3, 0-40. And that was it.
That was it for Ivanovic, not Halep.
At one point, toward the end, Ivanovic called for the trainer, who appeared to be working on practically everything on the Serb's body, but really--it was the "throat constriction" problem that needed tending. Ivanovic could hardly get a ball over the net, and Halep--not one to miss an opportunity--won 25 of the last 32 points. Her 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory puts her into the final. The Romanian player has yet to drop a set in Sofia.
Her opponent tomorrow will be Sam Stosur, who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 1-6, 6-3. The scoreline says it all: Stosur dominated the opening set, Pavlyuchenkova dominated the second, and the third was pretty competitive.
Stosur last played Halep in the final in Moscow, which Halep won 7-6, 6-2.
A couple of side notes:
Brit commentator, whoever you are, those WTA players cannot possibly be "countrymen"--you know, on account of their being women.
And I really enjoyed Stosur's walk onto the court for the final. The little girl who accompanied her adopted the same stoic-cool expression and gait as Stosur, and they made quite a pair.
Finally, in Nanjing, Ayumi Morita and Zhang Shuai emerged as the finalists. Morita is showing some fitness; she spent the week playing marathon matches and saving match points. Today, she had a straight set victory over Jarmila Gajdosova, while Zhang needed three sets to beat Yanina Wickmayer. The question now is: Will Morita have enough energy left to win her first WTA title? Zhang won her first title this year, in Guangzhou.
With partner Yaroslava Shvedova, Zhang is also into the doubles final. The top seeds will take on Misaki Doi and Xu Yi-Fan.