China's Zi Yan saved three match points in a gutsy 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1 win over Russian eighth seed Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the WTA Tier II $6,00,000 Bangalore Open late Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old Yan, who played an unorthodox game hitting double-handed off both flanks, increased the tempo as the match wore on even as Kirilenko was unable to get over the loss of the second set.
“The second loss lingered on my mind and affected my game in the third,” said the world No. 27. After winning the opening set convincingly, Kirilenko lost momentum in the second and was unable to keep pace with Yan who seemed to adapt much better as the match wore on to the high bounce that this particular court makes for. Kirilenko wasted a match-point in the ninth game (5-4) and two in the tie-break.
Yan, winner of two Grand Slam doubles titles (Australian Open and Wimbledon) and 14 others on the WTA tour, found rhythm later in the match just as Kirilenko seemed to be lost for ideas.
“I am concentrating more on singles now that I done well in doubles," said Yan. "I have my eyes on an Olympic gold,” she added.
End of the road for Indians
A HALF-HEARTED effort from Isha Lakhani brought an end to the Indian challenge at the tournament. After Shikha Uberoi's defeat on Monday night, it was Lakhani who failed to impress crashing out in the first round losing to Romania's Agnes Szatmari 2-6, 2-6. The Indian, who had got a wildcard entry, had trouble with her forehands, most of which were long. She was broken four times in the match — two in the first set and two in the second.
Williams sisters start on a high
It was sight tennis fans might not witness too often in India.
On a simmering Tuesday morning, Grand Slam champions Serena and Venus Williams teamed up in front of a small crowd.
The Williams sisters, winners of six Grand Slams together, scraped past the duo of Romania's Andreea Ehritt and Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-6 (5), 6-4.
While Venus looked in sublime touch, playing crisp volleys angled brilliantly, sister Serena, playing with heavily strapped ankles, appeared rusty. The Romanian-Thai pair played intelligently and targeted Serena in the course of the match.
It wasn't easy for the Williams either. They conceded a 0-3 lead in the first set and had to play out of their skins to avoid an embarrassing defeat.
7-Vera Zvonareva (Russia) beat Monica Niculescu (Romania) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; Anastasia Rodionova (Russia) beat Sun Tiantian (China) 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4; Agnes Szatmari (Romania) beat Isha Lakhani (India) 6-2, 6-2; Peng Shuai (China) beat Anne Kremer (Luxembourg) 6-1, 6-2; Sanda Mamic (Croatia) beat Chan Yung-jan (Taiwan) 6-2, 6-2; Olga Savchuk (Ukraine) beat Katie O'Brien (Britain) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5; Tzipora Obziler (Israel) beat Angelika Bachmann (Germany) 6-2, 6-3.
‘I love to beat the Williams’
THREE PLAYERS rose emphatically in tennis from a country ravaged by war. Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic are the three heroes who form the 'Serbian goodwill army' that has taken international tennis by storm. 22-year-old Jankovic, a woman of resolute determination, is one of the leading soldiers of this army. In India to play the Bangalore Open, Jankovic spoke exclusively to the Hindustan Times.
Tell us about your country and the reason you decided to shift base to the US.
Serbia has a population of not more than two million people. We (Ivanovic, Djokivic and herself) didn't have the best training facilities. It was difficult to train there. So we all decided to move out. I flew to the US, Novak moved to Germany and Ana went to Switzerland.
Do you see the condition improving now?
Oh yes. There are tennis centres, which are being established there now.
How do you look back at 2007? It was your breakthrough year, culminating in a top-five finish...
I trained really hard last year. I won many matches and it was a good learning experience.
Do you feel a Grand Slam title is just around the corner?
Yes, for sure.
What about being World No 1?
It will be a dream come true for me. I have always dreamt of it as a young girl.
Are you looking for a coach? What kind of a coach are you looking at?
Yes, I am looking for a coach. But it's very tough to find a coach who is experienced and has played on the circuit. All such coaches have been either taken by other players or are spending time with their families.
You have a great record against the Williams sisters - you must be looking forward to facing them…
Yeah. They are one of those rare talents. Sometimes you like to play some players more than the others. I love to beat them.
You had a tough outing at the Aussie Open recently. First a back injury, then the searing heat and finally, a fine slapped for court violation. Yet you managed to reach the semifinals. It must have been quite an experience.
(Smiles) Gosh! It was a strange story. As if the back injury and the heat weren't bad enough, they fined me! They said my mom was coaching me during a match. She was cheering me on in our language. I didn't know one could not speak in any other language but English.
What are your thoughts on Sania Mirza's absence from the event?
It is very disappointing for the fans. We all would have loved to see her here. She is a great player and will keep improving.
What are you doing apart from tennis?
I studied a lot last year. This year I am looking to major in a subject, though I haven't decided which one.
Bangalore facing a demotion?
The WTA seems unhappy with the facilities at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA), which is hosting the Tier II $6,00,000 Bangalore Open.
It looks almost certain that the tournament will be demoted to Tier III status next year, if at all it is still held in Bangalore.
Larry Scott, the WTA Tour chairman and CEO, is here to evaluate the tournament. It was clear he wasn't exactly impressed. He said that the facilities in Bangalore were ‘minimally adequate’ for a Tier II event. “I was here to get a first-hand experience of the organisation of the tournament,” Scott said. “I was here to evaluate the facilities, arrangements, impact of the crowd and govt support. “With players like Venus and Serena Williams here, we would like to see the impact of the crowd.”
“It depends upon the commitments of the organizers whether they can sustain the level or not," said Scott, adding that Bangalore, along with other Middle East and Asian countries, is bidding for contention to host the event from next year.
Sunder Raju, the KSLTA secretary and Tournament Director, is hopeful. "We believe we have met the basic requirements to host a Tier II event," Raju said. "But we would be developing our facilities and I hope by 2011 everything will be in place."
But 2011 could be too late.