Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Daniela Hantuchova on a roll

TENNISThe 22-year-old Slovak hardly broke a sweats as she defeated the US' Meghann Shanghnessy 6-4, 6-0, proving that she is far more staute than she used to be

AFP , FILDERSTADT, GERMANY

Daniela Hantuchova returns a shot to Meghann Shaughnessy at the Filderstadt WTA near Stuttgart, Germany, on Monday.

PHOTO: EPA

Daniela Hantuchova, who has just regained her place in the world's top 20 after more than a year and a half, continued her improvement in the US$650,000 WTA tournament on Monday.

Hantuchova won the last nine games in a row in a surprisingly one-sided 6-4, 6-0 success against Meghann Shaughnessy, the former top 20 player from the US, in the first round.

"I am much more aware of what I am doing on the court these days," the 22-year-old Slovak said. "Before I used just to come out swinging but didn't really know what I was doing, and now I know what to do at certain times. I feel like my game is right there now."

Hantuchova was wonderfully consistent and varied with her attacking drives, but also showed that she is far more astute than she used to be in choosing her moments at coming forward.

This introduced just enough variety to force Shaughnessy to try to take away the initiative from an increasingly confident-looking opponent, and that brought an increasing ratio of errors from the American.

It also brought frustration. In the penultimate game, when Shaughnessy was attempting to put a little more bite on her second serve, she delivered three double faults, smashing the ball angrily into the roof of the center court after the second one.

"I was expecting a difficult match because Meghann is a good player," Hantuchova said. "So I'm really glad I got on top in the second set. She gets out of a lot of games because of her serve, but today I felt like I was in control."

The turning point came when Hantuchova, who lost only five points on her serve in the first set, won a service game emphatically to love to reach four-all.

That applied pressure to Shaughnessy, who struggled uphill through five deuces on her next service game, twice having points to reach five-all, before Hantuchova made the break by winning a backhand-to-backhand exchange.

That changed the mood of the match completely. Hantuchova's game went up a gear, enabling her to produce two or three superbly disguised and brilliantly accurate drives.

It earned Hantuchova a meeting with the seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder, who holds a 7-4 head-to-head lead between them but whom Hantuchova beat when they last met two months ago in New Haven.

Earlier two other former top 20 players, Eleni Daniilidou and Karolina Sprem, came through the qualifying competition to play each other. The winner will have a second round match with Kim Clijsters, the second-seeded US Open champion who could become world number one this week if she takes away Lindsay Davenport's title.

India's rising star Sania Mirza got off to winning start at the Japan Open yesterday with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Vilmarie Castellvi of Puerto Rico.

The eighth seed, making her senior debut in Japan, broke Castellvi in the first game and cruised to victory with a succession of angled winners from the back of the court.

"Great. I played a good match, I got to play two good matches today. I'm hitting the ball good and I like the court. Hopefully, I can continue the way I'm playing," the 18-year-old from Mumbai said.

Mirza started to hit the corners midway through the first set, and although she went off the boil at the beginning of the second, she steadied herself to finish the match in 59 minutes.

In the second round, Mirza will take on Japan's Aiko Nakamura, who eliminated last year's runner-up American Mashona Washington 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 6-1.

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