Bell Challenge: Paszek Beats Sands

BELL CHALLENGE
Québec City-CAN
September 13-19, 2010
$220,000/International
Hard/Indoors

Results – Sunday, September 19, 2010
Singles – Final
(Q) Tamira Paszek (AUT) d. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 76(6) 26 75

Doubles – Final
Arvidsson/Larsson (SWE/SWE) d. (1) Mattek-Sands/Zahlavova Strycova (USA/CZE) 61 26 106 (Match TB)

Final Facts
– 19-year-old Paszek wins her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title, four years after she won the first, at Portoroz in 2006. She is now 2-1 in career finals, having been runner-up to Patty Schnyder at Bali in 2008.
– After an injury-marred 2009, Paszek, a former No.35, had to make it through qualifying on account of her ranking of No.151. Thanks to her Canadian win she jumps to No.92 on the September 20 rankings.
– Paszek didn’t drop a set en route to the final. Against Mattek-Sands she saved two set points in the first set and recovered a 3-1 deficit in the decider.
– Mattek-Sands was contesting her second Tour singles final; the first was at this event in 2008, when she was runner-up to Nadia Petrova, also in three sets.
– Swedes Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson win their first Tour title together. It’s a first doubles title for Arvidsson and first Tour title of any kind for Larsson.

Final Quotes
Tamira Paszek, 2010 Bell Challenge singles champion:
“It’s overwhelming. I’m extremely happy. Anytime you win a tournament for the first time it’s very special. This is something I’ll remember the rest of my life. I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me during tough times last year. I always believed I could come back.”

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 2010 Bell Challenge singles runner-up:
“This is my best tournament. When I made the final here again I really wanted to get my picture up on the champion’s wall. Tamira is a tough player. She was injured for a little bit but obviously playing qualifying here and making it all the way to the final, she has been playing really well.”

Jankovic Makes A Huge Comeback To Advance

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –  Jelena Jankovic sprinted back to the blue wall of Arthur Ashe Stadium in pursuit of a lob and clung to the shade as a welcome shelter from a searing sun. Jankovic had her back to the wall as US Open debutante Simon Halep served for the match, but the speedy Serbian showed her survival skills in bouncing back to break serve and score eight straight points to close out a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 triumph and reach the US Open second round.

“It was really hot and windy. My opponent played really well,” Jankovic said  “She was putting a lot of balls in the court.  She didn’t really make many mistakes, and I really had to work for every point. But I wasn’t playing my best tennis.  I was just trying to find my rhythm out there and trying to do my best to get through. I’m happy that I was able to get through this match.  It was a really tough one for me.”

It was a victory gained more on guile than game. Jankovic suffered a sprained left ankle in Portoroz earlier this summer and has staggered through the US Open Series. As the top seed in Montreal two weeks ago, Jankovic lost in straight sets to 75th-ranked qualifier Iveta Beneseova. It was her fourth loss in six matches and prompted Jankovic to admit the obvious: her game and confidence are sagging.

“I didn’t really feel like a top-five player out there,” said Jankovic. “My game hasn’t been at the top level for the last couple of tournaments.”

Since her run to the Roland Garros semifinals, Jankovic has registered a 6-6 record with four of her losses coming to players ranked outside the top 25, including a 7-6(3), 6-4 setback to 114th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova in Cincinnati.

The 2008 Open runner-up to Serena Williams looked slightly fresher than Halep in the latter stages. Seeking her first career Grand Slam main draw victory, Halep had the match on her racquet, but ran out of gas in the critical stages.

“Physically, I think she was more stronger than me,” Halep said. “She didn’t hit so hard, but she changed the rhythm of the points. I was very close and I am sad I didn’t win. I will try to do it next time.”

The fourth-seeded Jankovic resides in the softest quarter of the draw, but will need to pick up her play considerably if she is to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time in her last five Flushing Meadows appearances.

Athletically, Jankovic remains one of the most gifted players in the game, but her habit of reverting to retrieving when the going gets tough likely won’t get the job done against the seeded power players in the draw.

“There are days when you’re not going to be feeling the ball, you’re not going to be moving your feet,” Jankovic said. “In those days, you just really have to fight and really have to try your best and give your maximum and try to get through these kind of matches. If you are able to do that, then it gives you a lot more confidence for the next round.”

The next round pits Jankovic against one of the most unlikely of all US Open comeback stories. Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic, who reached the 1999 Wimbledon final at age 17, defeated Alicia Molik, 7-6(5), 6-1, and will face Jankovic in the second round.

“I feel fantastic. I’m so so happy,” Lucic said. “I worked so hard to get here. It feels incredible.”

The 28-year-old Lucic who missed nearly four years of her pro career due to personal issues she would not revisit in today’s post-match press conference, posted her first US Open main-draw victory since 1999.

Though she essentially walked away from the sport to put her life back in order after experiencing problems with her father, Lucic said in her mind she never walked away from the game.

“Never. I was just waiting for my opportunities.  I never quit,” Lucic said.  “I’m 28 now.  People are calling me a veteran, which is like, Oh, so depressing.  I’m like old at 28. But, you know, I just love it out there. I’m doing what I love, and I know that there is still a lot of good tennis in me, a lot of good results.  That’s what’s pushing me, and that’s why I’m doing it.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.