April 11, 2010

Back in the Swing

No one can say Caroline Wozniacki is having a bad year -- anyone who finds herself ranked #2 in her sport has certainly seen some deal of success. But as a legitimate favorite in most of her matches these days, dealing with loss can be that much harder.

She dropped two straight rounds to Na Li to start the year and was the huge favorite in her loss to Jelena Jankovic in Indian Wells. To make matters worse, she suffered her second loss to a Belgian comeback story when Justine Henin came back from a set down to dismiss her in the Miami quarters.

But this week Caroline was back in Florida looking to defend the title she won in Ponte Vedra Beach last year. The #1 seed, she advanced through her early rounds without much to-do, keeping her record against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova unblemished and rebounding to keep Elena Vesnina from avenging her semifinal loss to the Dane last year. In doing so, she earned her twelfth Tour final -- not bad for a nineteen-year-old.

This afternoon she met Olga Govortsova, two years her senior. The Belarusian had slain a few big guns -- second seed Alona Bondarenko in the first round and third Dominika Cibulkova in the semis -- to make her third Tour championship match. She'd obviously proven she couldn't be ignored. Wozniacki got off to a good start, breaking her opponent twice in the opening set, but then found herself down a couple games in the second. Govortsova was in position to serve for the set and even up the match, but that was just when Caroline's championship spirit shone brightest. Olga was serving to force a tiebreak, but couldn't get the better of her opponent. In straight sets, Wozniacki had won her seventh trophy, and her second straight at the MPS Group Championships.

Meanwhile in Houston, another player who'd been on a bit more of a slump was trying to re-right his own career. Juan Ignacio Chela had been on a three year title drought and was coming back from a herniated disc injury that sidelined him for much of 2008. Before this week, he hadn't put together back-to-back main bracket wins all year. But in Texas he took out three seeds in a row, including defending champ Lleyton Hewitt, before meeting Sam Querrey in the finals.

For his part, Querrey had done well to prove that Americans can win -- at least a little -- on clay. He got through veteran Nicolas Massu and scored a personal victory be defeating Wayne Odesnik in the semis. He even took the first set from Chela on Sunday.

In a surprisingly close match, though, the Argentine withstood eleven aces and kept his own serving percentage high. He scored a late break in the second set to draw even and immediately retaliated when Querrey broke his serve in the first game of the last set. After two and a half hours, Chela had won his fifth career championship, and his first since 2007.

It's always good to begin a new season with a win, and for both Wozniacki and Chela it's got to be nice to put an end to their recent string of losses, whether at the end or at the beginning of a tournament. And as we get closer and closer to the French Open, it'll be great to see what these guys can do!

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