Bartoli Wins All-Double-Fisted Tokyo Final

Posted on October 9, 2006

TOKYO, Japan -- Belting her two-fisted groundstrokes powerfully and precisely, Marion Bartoli continued to show why she is one of the most dangerous players around at the moment Sunday, claiming her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title of the season at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, and announcing her arrival in the world's Top 20. In an historic first ever final between players that play with two hands off of both sides, the Frenchwoman capped her run with a 26 62 62 win over Japan's Aiko Nakamura.

Bartoli, seeded first this past week and a heavy tournament favorite after No.2 seed Ai Sugiyama's quarterfinal defeat, was given all she could handle in the opening set by Nakamura, but regrouped and took control from the start of the second set. In the end, her deeper, more powerful two-fisted blasts were just too much for her increasingly weary opponent.

"Aiko was well-prepared and moving fast, especially in the first set," Bartoli said. "I tried to make her run more in the second set, and she looked more and more tired. Good first serves were the key to my victory today. I was able to play aggressively. I was able to take advantage of her second serves as well."

"I was totally absorbed in the game in the first set, which I believe was almost perfect," Nakamura said. "But I woke up to reality in the second set, and Marion was beginning to hit harder, deeper into the court. I tried to stay calm, believing that chances would come my way, but she just kept getting better in the second set and I could not get my rhythm back."

Bartoli has now won 13 of 16 matches since a third round loss to Patty Schnyder at the US Open. She reached her very first Tier III final a few weeks back in Bali, finishing runner-up to Svetlana Kuznetsova, and now she takes home a first Tier III title, her second title after winning the Tier IV in Auckland in January.

"Being the top seed does not necessarily make you the best player; you have to play well to prove that, which is not easy," said Bartoli, who is projected to crack the Top 20 on Monday. "Once you start playing, the rankings don't matter. But I made it this time, and I am happy. This was the first time I won as the first seed."

When asked about her recent spike in results over the last months, Bartoli has been citing much-improved fitness after hard off-court work all season long.

"I am more physically fit, and so I wasn't as tired as she was. The fruits of my training showed today. I believed in the chance and believed that I could win."

After the trophy ceremony, the emcee announced it had been Bartoli's birthday earlier in the week, to which the crowd erupted and chanted Happy Birthday.

"This was my best birthday week ever," said their new champion.

Nakamura, ranked No.89 and a wild card into the main draw, also left a lasting impression in Tokyo, passing the quarterfinal round for the first time then pushing one of the world's elite to three sets despite the home pressure. She was trying to become the first Japanese Tour singles titlist since Sugiyama in 2004.

"Although I didn't win, I am happy about my performances throughout the week. I did my best. I made it to the final match, and this has given me confidence."

Another player who received a boost of confidence from their week was young Taiwanese Chan Yung-Jan, who, playing in just her fourth career Tour main draw, made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Nakamura in three sets. Chan, 17, was responsible for the earlier-than-expected departure of Sugiyama.

"I thought it was an excellent match," said Chan about the upset. "The key to my win was my focus and mental toughness. I knew the crowd would make a lot of noise for her so I had to block them out. I knew I had to do that to win."

"She has quick footwork, and fought with a nothing-to-lose spirit," said a gracious Sugiyama. "She has good backhand, and we probably play in a similar style. But above all, I should say she has the vitality and the spirit which I always had."

In the doubles final, Vania King and Jelena Kostanic captured the title with a tough 76(2) 57 62 victory over Chan and Chuang Chia-Jung. It was just the unseeded pair's second time playing together, having also reached the final last week in Guangzhou, but falling to China's Li Ting and Sun Tiantian. Chan and Chuang had played several ITF Women's Circuit events together but were also playing just their second Tour event as a team, having won a title in their only prior outing, at Seoul in 2005.
-- WTA