Petrova Puts Away Safarova for Paris Title

Posted on February 11, 2007

PARIS, France - After winning her semifinal on Saturday, she was so dizzy she wasn't even able to play her doubles match; but Nadia Petrova just wouldn't give up, and on Sunday she survived another three-setter against Lucie Safarova to capture her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year (and the seventh of her career).

The one-hour, 48-minute championship duel was a streaky one. Safarova was the first to assert herself, using her aggression to perfection in winning the opening set and holding points for a 2-0 lead in the second. But that was the turning point; Petrova used her own brand of aggressive tennis, following her groundstrokes into the net on many occasions and reeling off 11 of the next 12 games to clinch the second and pull ahead 5-1 in the third. Although the Czech was able to close to 5-4, it was too late, and the Russian sealed the 46 61 64 win on an errant forehand.

"The level of tennis she was playing at in the beginning was very high; it was like her eyes were closed and everything was going in," Petrova said. "I changed how I played after that; in the beginning I was building points and she was blowing me away. I decided to stick to the basics and look for the opportunities. She began giving me errors, that gave me some rhythm, and I was back in the game.

"I got a little bit nervous at the end but she was really playing well; she felt she had nothing to lose. In the last game I went to the net and it really worked well."

"The match was very tough," Safarova said. "I felt she was getting nervous and I had a chance to get it back to 5-all, but then she just played well."

In a week where all eyes were on a returned Justine Henin and defending champ Amélie Mauresmo, Petrova and Safarova snuck through the draw nicely. Petrova was Mauresmo's conqueror, pulling off the 57 64 76(7) upset in dramatic style in the semis, fending off a match point in that third set tie-break to grab her third win in her last four meetings with the Frenchwoman; she had also taken out the only other former champion in the draw, Dinara Safina, the round prior.

"I'll give my best every tournament, and hopefully I'll have more titles this year," said Petrova, now 7-6 lifetime in Tour singles finals. "Hopefully I'll get closer to my goals, like getting to the semifinals of a Grand Slam, maybe winning one.

"It should be a good year for me."

Safarova was Henin's conqueror; in fact, the Czech beat three Top 10 players to reach the biggest final of her career at the Tier II event. After a marathon victory in the opening round over Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova she had consecutive straight set wins over world No.9 Nicole Vaidisova (64 62), No.5 Svetlana Kuznetsova (63 64) and No.2 Henin (76(5) 64) - the third, fourth and fifth Top 10 scalps of her blossoming career. Her first two came against Patty Schnyder at Gold Coast last year and Mauresmo at the Australian Open this year.

"It has been a great week for me; I beat players I only dreamed about beating," said Safarova, now 3-2 in Tour singles finals. "It wouldn't be right to be sad now. I got a lot of experience and confidence. Hopefully this will help me get better."

Aside from the runs of Petrova and Safarova, the story of the week was the return of Henin to the Tour circuit. The Belgian finished 2006 as the world's No.1 player, but due to personal reasons was forced to miss the entire Australian season, and has now fallen behind Maria Sharapova on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Singles Rankings. But it was an impressive comeback - she notched three set wins over Emilie Loit and Tatiana Golovin to reach the round of four.

Black, Huber continue winning streak with doubles victory

Following the singles was the doubles final but the conclusion seemed foregone from the start. Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber capped a near-perfect week with a 62 60 rout of Gabriela Navratilova and Vladimira Uhlirova.

Black and Huber were barely challenged in the French capital. They didn't lose a set in four matches en route to capturing their fifth title as a team, a tally that also includes this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon two years ago. Black now holds 29 Tour doubles titles while Huber owns 17.

"I love it here - what a great atmosphere," Huber said. "Not many people stayed, but the ones that did cheered so loudly, and made us feel like champions. It was tougher than the score showed; every final is a fight and winning is great." (WTA)