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September bloom for Maria

Maria Kirilenko of Russia won the third edition of the Sunfeast Open tennis tournament, defeating Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2 in the final in Kolkata.

sports Updated: Sep 24, 2007 00:47 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times

Alla Kudryavtseva, training with Vania King for their Sunfeast Open doubles final on Sunday evening, danced a long jig as the Netaji Indoor Stadium reverberated with Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria’.

Appropriate before a singles final featuring Maria Kirilenko and Mariya Koryttseva. But the final did not last long enough to do justice to the build-up. Kirilenko won the mismatch 6-0, 6-2.

The gap in rankings between Sunday’s singles contestants was already there, all of 129 places. It only widened as the 164th ranked Ukrainian Koryttseva walked in with a heavily strapped left thigh.

She could not get a foothold in the match and neither did Kirilenko let her. The first set breezed by even before Koryttseva could realise how it felt to be in her first WTA Tour final. It lasted just 26 minutes and was gracefully taken by the Russian, who toiled against Daniela Hantuchova on Saturday, the first four games of their semi-final taking 37 minutes.

The second set began on a somewhat competitive note. Koryttseva started with a break, a very hard-earned one, that saw Kirilenko saving four break points and finally relenting on the fifth with a double-fault. The Ukrainian then held serve and suddenly people, who were already going through a tough time calling out ‘Kirilenko’ and ‘Koryttseva’ because just the first names were not sending the message home, were shifting in their seats.

The turnout was less than expected and maybe the torrential downpour since last evening played a part. Besides, the nation is drunk on India’s Twenty20 success, leaving the stands here more empty than full.

As Kirilenko ran away with the first set, the small crowd resorted to various ways to keep themselves entertained.

With a match on their hands, the crowd focussed on the tennis again. But Kirilenko, who two Septembers ago had lifted her only Tour title in Beijing beating Anna-Lena Groenefeld, realised soon enough that here was a golden opportunity to break into the top-30 with a title. She came back with a vengeance and won six games on the trot to take the title.

Percentage tennis was the hallmark of Kirilenko’s game in the final. Having gone a set up and coming back to level at 2-2 in the second, the Russian knew it was going to be an uphill task for her opponent. All she did was put as many balls back into play as she could and force Koryttseva to go for broke. The Ukrainian did and committed a series of unforced errors, her attempt to get on the top of the ball impeded by the thigh injury picked up in the semi-final on Saturday.

“I was having some problem with my movement because of the injury,” Koryttseva said.

“But, of course, that was not the reason I lost. It was a good learning experience for me getting to play a player of such a high ranking, but I am disappointed with the scoreline,” she added.

“I guess I was a little nervous to start with. And then again a lot of calls today were very funny. There has been some poor calls during the tournament, but today it was bad,” said Koryttseva, who goes home to Harkov next and then to play in Tashkent.

King- Kudryavtseva win

Forget a double, Koryttseva’s hopes of taking something more lasting than memories from here evaporated when she lost the doubles final too. Paired with Alberta Brianti of Italy, she lost to Vania King of the US and Russian Alla Kudryavtseva 1-6, 4-6.

First Published: Sep 23, 2007 21:54 IST