Chakvetadze, Mirza Rally to Reach Stanford Final

Posted on July 29, 2007

STANFORD, CA, USA - Last week a semifinal in Cincinnati, this week a final in Stanford. Anna Chakvetadze and Sania Mirza set up their second duel in as many weeks on Saturday with three set semifinal victories at the $600,000 Bank of the West Classic.

Mirza was the first to advance to the final, overcoming No.8 seed Sybille Bammer in an afternoon match-up, 62 57 63. Mirza's aggressive shots were on target in the first set while her opponent was the one taking the lead in the second. But after the first five games of the third set went to the server it was all Mirza, who reeled off four consecutive games for a two-hour, 14-minute victory in the pair's first career encounter.

"I think I should have finished the match in the second set; that's why I was a little edgy in the third set," Mirza said. "I wasn't being aggressive enough and I started to be a bit too defensive. But I just started hitting the ball again and tried to win the points, and not waiting for her to lose them. It worked well in the end."

"Sania played great tennis; she played very fast and high risk, and I couldn't play my game," said Bammer, who was playing her fifth semifinal of the year. "In key points in the second set I was serving well where she was a bit shaky there. In the third set it was tough for me because she was playing great again."

Mirza is now into her third and biggest career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles final at the Tier II event, a pair of Tier IVs in 2005 being her first two finals.

"I'm ecstatic," Mirza said. "I'm obviously excited and happy - this is one of the biggest tournaments I've ever played the final of."

In March, Mirza underwent knee surgery and was out of the game for over two months for rehabilitation; since her return right before Roland Garros she seems to have gotten better and better, her victories against Tatiana Golovin and Patty Schnyder earlier in the week being her first Top 20 wins of the season.

"There've been things I've been working on in the last eight or nine months - I have a fitness trainer so I am working on my fitness, and I'm more patient in the points, not going for a winner right away. But that's just maturing as a player."

Chakvetadze, the top seed this week, beat No.3 seed Hantuchova, 67(6) 63 62. The Russian was fighting back from behind thoughout the first set, coming back from 5-2 in both the set and the tie-break, but Hantuchova eventually clinched it. The second and third set was all the Russian, who will now have a shot at extending her already-perfect Tour finals record to 6-0.

"It was a good match although my serve was a bit up and down," Chakvetadze said. "I served better in the third set though, which was the most important. Still I'm pleased with the way I played. I was playing better than I was yesterday."

Chakvetadze has never lost in a Tour final, capturing titles in Guangzhou and Moscow in 2006 and Hobart, 's-Hertogenbosch and Cincinnati this year.

Now she'll face fellow 20-year-old Mirza for her sixth career title.

"She's hitting the ball very big, very good forehands; I'll just have to try to move her around and make her run," Chakvetadze said. "We played juniors together and we know each other's games so well, so no surprises for us tomorrow."

Both singles finalists will also play the doubles final on Sunday as Chakvetadze pairs Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and Mirza partners Israeli Shahar Peer. No.3-seeded Mirza and Peer won in the afternoon over Hsieh Su-Wei and Alla Kudryavtseva, 63 64, while an unseeded Azarenka and Chakvetadze ousted recent Roland Garros and Wimbledon runners-up and No.1 seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama under the lights, 64 57 107.

The singles final takes the court at noon local time, with the doubles to follow. (WTA)