Hingis Embarrasses Mirza to Gain Kolkata Final

Posted on September 24, 2006

KOLKATA, India -- It was a match that had been highly-anticipated ever since the draw came out over the weekend; but, when the clash finally came to fruition, one player stepped up while the other was left shell-shocked. On an electric Saturday night in Kolkata, Martina Hingis crushed Sania Mirza, 61 60, to reach the Sunfeast Open final. She will face Olga Poutchkova for the title.

Although Hingis had trouble closing Mirza out in their only previous encounter, a 63 75 victory in Dubai this year where she broke three separate times in the second set only to watch the Indian star rally back each time, history did not repeat itself in Kolkata this week, as the top-seeded Swiss cruised to the victory in just 58 minutes. Mirza had chances to get on the board in two separate games in the second set but to no avail.

"I don't think the match was that easy; the points were long," Hingis said. "I tried to keep away from her forehand as much as possible but now her backhand is improving. I served well today, and tried to mix it up; you need to stick to the basics and put pressure on your opponent on big points, and that's what I did."

"I had some chances in the second set which I didn't make; but, I felt like she knew where I was hitting the ball before it even left my racquet," said Mirza, who was in her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour semifinal of the year. "She is just a great athlete and a great mover on the court. There are only a few girls as fit as her on the Tour, perhaps Dementieva; I can't think of anyone else.

"She's a natural athlete. Like Federer, she makes the game look effortless."

This was Mirza's sixth career Tour event in India. She had been very hot and cold in her previous five ventures back home, winning one title, in Hyderabad last year, but falling first or second round four times. This week she seemed to be on a hot streak, but perhaps the two-fold pressure from Hingis and playing at home was just too much.

"She did have a couple of chances in the second set," said Hingis, "but it's not easy for her playing at home, with the pressure and expectations."

Mirza is still alive in the doubles draw. On Saturday night, she and partner Liezel Huber, with whom she has won both of her career Tour doubles titles, advanced to the final with an easy 63 62 win over Hana Sromova and Angelique Widjaja. They'll play Yulia Beygelzimer and Yuliana Fedak for the title.

Awaiting Hingis in Sunday's singles final will be Russia's Olga Poutchkova, a 64 64 winner over Uzbek qualifier Iroda Tulyaganova. Poutchkova won the first set and was up 4-2 in the second before the former Top 20 player rallied back to 4-all and held break point to go up 5-4; but, the teenager held and closed it out.

"I lost concentration a little bit, but when it was close, I came up with the shots and closed it out," said Poutchkova, who is through to her first ever final in just her fifth career Tour main draw. "Last week I reached my first quarterfinal in Bali, and this week I'm in the final, I'm so happy."

"My first serve percentage was too low, and I let her play her game too much," said Tulyaganova. "I came back in the second set but then at 4-all I was playing way too far behind the baseline. She's a great player though."

Tulyaganova, 24, is a former world No.16 who came into this event ranked outside the Top 300 due to struggles with an elbow injury the last few years. But judging by her form this week, it seems she has found her range again.

"This was my first Tour event in three years; I qualified and reached the semis, a fantastic result for me; it gives me a lot of confidence for the future."

As for Poutchkova, a championship match against Hingis gives her a chance to play one of her idols for her very first Tour title.

"It's amazing to me. I used to watch her in Grand Slam finals when I was 12 and now I'm going to be playing her tomorrow. We'll just have to see how it goes!"

Hingis and Poutchkova will be playing each other for the first time.
-- WTA