October 16, 2010

The Chance of a Lifetime

It's been over a year since any of the four ladies playing championship matches tomorrow have won a trophy, and boy must they all be hungry. And with just one win standing between them and the opportunity to put themselves back on the map, you can bet we're going to see some fierce fighting on Sunday.

Surprisingly it's the ladies in Japan who have gone the least time without a tournament win. Forty year old Kimiko Date Krumm, a titleist in Seoul last year, will meet thirty-three year old fellow veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, the 2009 victor in 's-Hertogenbosch will contest the oldest final in Tour history Sunday, proving that age really isn't an issue on the tennis court.

Both have had magnificent runs in Osaka -- the sixth-seeded Date Krumm, ranked #4 in the world nearly fifteen years ago, knocked off French Open finalist Sam Stosur and top-fifteen player Shahar Peer in consecutive matches, while the Thai star survived two three-set matches before dismissing second seeded Marion Bartoli in under two hours. They've played twice before, both times on carpet, and each time took all three sets to decide the outcome -- they've split the wins, but Tanasugarn won the only final they played together.

But something tells me this time might be different.

As the hometown favorite, Kimiko has already used the crowd to her advantage all week, but wins over teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and former #1's Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina all this year alone, she's more than shown she can still hit with the youngsters. With an impressive 8-6 career record in finals compared to Tamarine's 3-7, she continues to prove she can handle the pressure. And if making history one time this weekend wasn't enough, she has the chance to become the oldest Tour champion ever, trumping Billie Jean King who has held the record since 1983.

On the other side of the world are two women who are going on two-years without that once common championship trophy. In Linz Austria, where Serena Williams had been planning to make her comeback, 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic took her place as a wildcard and stormed through her early rounds, beating Sorana Cirstea and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in just over two hours combined. Meanwhile, thirty-one year old Patty Schnyder took out three seeds -- Klara Zakopalova, Andrea Petkovic and top-seeded Daniela Hantuchova to make her second final of the year.

The pair have split their last eight meetings, but Ivanovic has won the last four, including a straight set win on her way to the '08 French Open trophy. But since then, she's had quite a hard time of things since then, and it's hard to count out Schnyder who, a veteran herself, still wins more matches than she loses on Tour. And making the finals here after that heart-breaking third-round loss at the U.S. Open, it's nice to see her on this side of things. I really don't know who's going to win this match, but the trophy would certainly put a well-deserved end to two very long droughts.

And at this point in all of their careers, they couldn't have asked for a better chance to make an impact.

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