02 October 2006

Daniilidou Wins Korea Open

This has been an exciting and unpredictable week for the WTA Tour, with two players winning their first titles and a title also going to a player who has not won a tournement for the last two years.

Greek star Eleni Daniilidou, came back from a set down and a bout of cramp to couragously take the Korea Open title in Seoul at the weekend. Once ranked as high as 14 in the world, Daniilidou has had to struggle with many injuries and various coaches over the past few years - leaving her confidence and her ranking low. A recent change of coaching team has given Daniilidou the motivation she so desperately needed - making it to the semi finals in Shanghai where she was eventually beated by top 10 player Nadia Petrova and then on to her incredible winning week in the Korean capital of Seoul.

In the final, Daniilidou took three match points from Japanese Ai Sugiyama to ultimately force the tiebreaker, during which Daniilidou collapsed on the court with leg cramps forcing an injury time-out brake, and after took all but one of the points to win the match 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (3).

"I tried to play the tiebreaker as aggressively as I could. The key was to go for it," Daniilidou said. "It was my mistake not calling the physio (earlier). Ai is a fighter, I had to play very precise."

The Korea Open title is Daniilidou's first hard-court win over Sugiyama in four attempts. Sugiyama leads their head-to-head meetings 4-3 and last defeated Daniilidou at the French Open in June.

Eleni Daniilidou

Alona Bondarenko was the latest player to get the best of Italian Francesca Schiavone in a final of theLuxembourg Fortis Championships.

An unseeded player from the Ukraine, Bondarenko captured her first career title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over the fifth-seeded Schiavone on Sunday.

"She played great," Schiavone said. "She didn't give me a chance. She only gave away three or four points in the match. I was trying to find the solution, to try and break her, come into the net, I did so many things. But not so well, I guess."

Appearing in her first final since Hyderabad, India last year, Bondarenko, 22, avenged a straight-sets loss to the Italian in the opening round of the French Open. She earned $95,500 for her victory.

"I didn't think about how it was a final, and that I could win or lose," Bondarenko said. "I just played and concentrated on every point. I concentrated a lot on my first serve. Today, I just focused on my game and nothing else."

Also on the tour this week, third-seed Anna Chakvetadze captured her first career title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues in Sunday's final of the $175,000 Guangzhou International.

It was the fourth victory in as many career meetings against Medina Garrigues for the 19-year-old Chakvetadze, all in straight sets. A native of Russia, Chakvetadze has yet to be pushed beyond 6-4 in any set against the Spaniard.

"I knew I had to be really aggressive today, and it worked," Chakvetadze said. "Maybe the score looked easy, but it was a very difficult match. I just took my chances. Fortunately I came out on top today."

Anna Chakvetadze