Russian tennis ace Vera Zvonareva threw down the gauntlet ahead of the Australian Open with an awe-inspiring demolition of world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Hong Kong yesterday.
The 26-year-old took just 56 minutes and dropped just one game as she thrashed the Dane 6-1, 6-0 on the back of an equally ruthless straight-sets win over Venus Williams at the exhibition tournament.
Wozniacki, 20, who rose to the top of the rankings in October, topped the bill at this week’s Hong Kong Tennis Classic World Team Challenge, but it was her Russian rival who has emerged as the player to be feared when the Australian Open starts in Melbourne on Jan. 17.
Zvonareva, who enjoyed a career-best season last year, pounced on her opponent’s weak second serve without mercy and overwhelmed the Dane at the baseline, taking the first set in just 25 minutes.
Wozniacki, renowned for her consistency, made an uncharacteristic 10 unforced errors against just one winner in the first set and quickly dropped two service games in the second as Zvonareva took complete control.
Zvonareva’s win helped Russia to a 3-1 victory over Europe in the Hong Kong exhibition.
The Russians had an overnight 1-0 lead over Europe in the gold final after Maria Kirilenko beat France’s Aravane Rezai 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Sweden’s six-time Grand Slam singles champion Stefan Edberg, 44, drew Europe level after winning 6-4, 6-0 in his “legends” singles rubber against Russian 36-year-old French and Australian Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
However, the Russian doubles pairing of Maria Kirilenko and Kafelnikov dismissed Aravane Rezai and Edberg in straight sets to seal the victory.
Earlier, John McEnroe and five-time Wimbledon winner Williams of the US won the consolation silver group final for losing semi-finalists, beating the Asia-Pacific region’s Mark Philippoussis of Australia and Zhang Ling of Hong Kong 6-2, 7-6.
REUTERS AND AFP, SYDNEY
AND BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
Top seed Robin Soderling will meet defending champion Andy Roddick in the final of the Brisbane International after repelling a fightback from former title holder Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-5 yesterday.
American Roddick later outgunned the 2.03m-tall Kevin Anderson 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in a battle of big servers in their semi-final to reach the final for a second successive year.
Swede Soderling did finally lose his serve for the first time this week, but by that stage Stepanek was already a set down and heading toward the exit at a tournament where he was champion two years ago and the losing finalist last year.
Soderling, widely considered a serious Grand Slam threat this year, claimed the first set in less than half an hour, but found the second tougher going, before his 32-year-old Czech opponent pounced to break him for 5-5.
The world No. 5 took it in his stride, however, breaking back immediately and then making no mistake with his final service game to reach his 11th career final.
Roddick, ranked eighth in the world, also started well against Anderson, winning the ace count 7-4 to wrap up the first set with some ease.
Anderson, who upset sixth seed Feliciano Lopez in the second round, ramped up his signature serve in the second set to edge the battle for aces 5-4 and even up the contest.
The tall South African then handed Roddick a gift-wrapped passage back into the match by double faulting twice in his opening service game, including on break point.
Roddick, who reached the last eight at Melbourne Park last year, took full advantage and raced to a 4-0 lead, before claiming the match in just under two hours, despite the pair sharing the aces honors 4-4.
In the women’s final later yesterday, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic beat Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 6-3.
Petkovic had gone into the final as firm favorite after powering her way through the early rounds, but Kvitova attacked from the outset and never let the German settle.
Kvitova opened an early 4-1 lead with the power of her ground-strokes — especially her booming forehand — forcing Petkovic onto the back foot, but unlike in earlier rounds where Petkovic was able to pull similar leads back, Kvitova’s power and accuracy were too much for her opponent as she eased away with the first set.
Kvitova began the second set in similar fashion, winning her service games with ease, while Petkovic struggled to stay in touch.
The Czech broke Petkovic in the sixth game to open a 4-2 lead, but surrendered the break in the next game.
However, Kvitova attacked Petkovic’s faltering serve and broke her again, then held her own to wrap up a comfortable win.
REUTERS, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Unheralded Greta Arn completed her giant-killing run and claimed her second WTA Tour title when she beat champion and second seed Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3 in the Auckland Classic final yesterday.
The world No. 88 was steady rather than explosive and helped by Wickmayer’s numerous unforced errors throughout the match, though she faced a severe attack of nerves when she was serving for the title.
She went 0-30 down and served two double faults during the game, including one on match point, but managed to overcome them.
REUTERS, PERTH, AUSTRALIA
John Isner inspired the US to Hopman Cup glory yesterday as they beat Belgium 2-1 to win the mixed team event for the sixth time.
The world No. 19 crushed Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-4 to level the tie after Bethanie Mattek-Sands had been beaten 7-6, 6-3 by former world No. 1 Justine Henin in the opening match.
Isner then joined forces with Mattek-Sands to win the deciding mixed doubles 6-1, 6-3 to give the US a well-deserved victory.
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