American Vania King Captures 1st Title at Bangkok

Posted on October 16, 2006

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Questions about the future of American tennis were put to rest at least temporarily this past week, as one of the former-powerhouse country's most promising young stars gave all the answers in Bangkok. Vania King claimed her very first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title at the PTT Bangkok Open, defeating Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, who made lots of noise herself this week, in Sunday's final.

Both King and Tanasugarn made their way into the championship round without the loss of a set, but when their paths finally crossed, the battle was anything but straightforward. Both players were solid all around, hitting relatively flat on both wings and covering the court well. But it was Tanasugarn who drew first blood with some more consistent play in the opening set, earning breaks in the third and seventh games. King began hitting the mark on her more aggressive groundstrokes in the second, breaking in the sixth game en route to evening it up at a set apiece.

The third set was a battle from start to finish. Tanasugarn went ahead 4-2 and was on the verge of a 5-3 lead, building a 40-15 lead while serving at 4-3, but it was King who ended up playing sharper in the ultimate stages of the match, breaking to level the decider, 4-all, holding comfortably to go up 5-4, then building a triple match point lead and ending it on her second match point with a clutch forehand to close out the two-hour, 24-minute marathon.

"I started slow; I was a bit tired from yesterday," King said. "In the first set I was trying to come in, but she was hitting these low sharp angles. I just couldn't hurt her. She was playing great and coming up with these shots. I was standing too far back and in the second set, so I moved up the court and that helped a lot.

"At 3-4 in the third, I thought I'd have no regrets even if I lose, if I fought hard and tried to outplay her. When I broke her to win the match it was a shock."

"I was almost there," Tanasugarn said afterwards. "The 4-3 game in the third was so important and she played unbelievable. I have to say, she played very well at the end of the match. I tried my best in the match and I'm sorry I didn't win!"

King, 17, became the ninth teen-aged Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titlist of the year, joining a list that includes Maria Sharapova, Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic, as well as Anna Chakvetadze, who won in Moscow this week.

"It's my first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title and I'm ecstatic to have won," said a jubilant King. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now. I think my game has improved so much in the last three weeks, my serve has improved so much since Guangzhou and I'm getting more aggressive, it's fantastic."

Both finalists enjoyed a string of impressive wins en route to Sunday's encounter. King began with a victory over former Top 10 player Alicia Molik, then dispatched seeded players Lucie Safarova, Jelena Kostanic and Meghann Shaughnessy -- all with the loss of a total of 15 games. Tanasugarn's run was more comprehensive, ousting four players ranked between No.50 and 60, namely Catalina Casta��Jamea Jackson, Sybille Bammer and Severine Br˜Dnd, losing only 14 games.

Tanasugarn, who was ranked as high as Top 20 just a few years back, has been building somewhat of a career resurgence this fall. Having won two Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw matches this year prior to the US Open, she has notched seven since, reaching her first quarterfinal in over a year at Kolkata three weeks ago (losing a tight two-setter to Martina Hingis) and now making her first final in over three years here, in front of her adoring home crowd, no less.

"I got to the final and it was a great week for me," said Tanasugarn, 29. "I'm so grateful for all the warm support from my family, friends and the crowds."

As if the week wasn't perfect enough for King, there was one more prize in store. Partnering Kostanic, she captured the doubles trophy with a 75 26 75 victory over Argentine-South African tandem Mariana Diaz-Oliva and Natalie Grandin.

King and Kostanic have been near-perfect in their first three weeks together as a team. In their first event together at Guangzhou two weeks ago, they reached the final, losing to China's Li Ting and Sun Tiantian. Last week at Tokyo [Japan Open] they captured their first title together, and now they complete a dream fortnight.

"It's great to play with Jelena, we only started playing together three weeks ago, yet we have two titles and a final to our names," King said. "I've really enjoyed today, it was magic to win both titles in Bangkok."

King is just the third player this year to sweep both singles and doubles in one week. Anna-Lena Groenefeld was the first to achieve the feat, at Acapulco, while Shahar Peer repeated it at Prague.

Diaz-Oliva was playing the last event of her over-14-year professional career. On the Tour, she was a one-time singles titlist (2002 Palermo), a two-time runner-up (2001 Bol, 2003 Acapulco) and twice a semifinalist (1999 Estoril, 2001 Bogota). This was just her second Tour doubles final; she also held a runner-up trophy in the team event just a few weeks ago at Seoul (with Chuang Chia-Jung).
-- WTA