November 6, 2011

End With a Bang

The women's tennis season officially wrapped up today as the final balls were hit at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. And while the field contesting the title boasted some of the most impressive records on Tour, the ultimate outcome was probably not what many expected.

The top seeds in Bali were mostly occupied with some of the most successful athletes. Marion Bartoli just missed gaining full entry to the year-end championships held last week in Istanbul, but got in one round robin win as a wildcard. Sabine Lisicki came back from an injury-filled 2010 to take two titles and put up career-best showings at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And twenty-eight year old Roberta Vinci put together her most trophy-filled year, capturing a career-best three crowns herself. But only Lisicki made it out of the first round, and a low back injury forced her to retire late in her semifinal match.

Taking advantage of the German's bad luck -- and, incidentally, Bartoli's a round earlier -- was Anabel Medina Garrigues, the surprise winner in both Estoril and Palermo. They were the first events she'd won since 2009 and helped her climb back into the top thirty. She's been a little quiet in the second half of the year, but by hanging in just a little longer than her opponents this weekend, she made her first final since July.

The bottom half of the draw had a few more surprises, but at least all the matches were fully played out. College Park champion Nadia Petrova, once ranked #3 in the world, avenged previous losses to second-seeded wildcard Shuai Peng this year, and defending titleist Ana Ivanovic reversed her recent losses to Vinci to score the win in just over an hour. The semifinal match on Saturday was similarly straightforward as the Serb got the better of her long-time rival, further improving her slight head-to-head lead over the Russian.

It was the first final Ivanovic had reached this year, and though she had dropped a few spots from her high ranking of 2011, she was nevertheless hanging with the big girls again. She'd beating Jelena Jankovic in Indian Wells and took Kim Clijsters to a third set tiebreak in Miami -- just a few weeks back in Beijing she beat both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva to make the semis. And she brought that momentum with her to Sunday's championship match, dominating her service games and breaking Medina Garrigues four times during the match. With the win, her only title of the year, she may not make a big move up the rankings, but she will at least gain confidence to play even better when she kicks of 2012.

And with the way her competition is playing these days, that confidence can only be to her advantage.

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