Andy Murray was one match away from his 22nd career singles title with new coach Ivan Lendl in his corner, while Kaia Kanepi won her second WTA title with a dominating performance over Daniela Hantuchova at the Brisbane International yesterday.
Kanepi won all but one point in the first four games of the second set and went on to beat Hantuchova 6-2, 6-1 in the women’s final to add to her 2010 tournament title at Palermo.
Murray beat Australian teenager Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-2 in their men’s semi-final and will play today’s final against third seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov, who swept aside second seeded Gilles Simon of France 6-3, 6-4 earlier yesterday.
Murray, aiming to break a Grand Slam singles drought for British men that extends back to 1936, hired eight-time Grand Slam winner Lendl as coach earlier this month and the pair met up yesterday.
The 24-year-old Murray has lost the past two Australian Open finals and is 0-3 in major finals, something he is desperate to address at Melbourne Park starting on Jan. 16.
Murray started the week slowly, dropping the opening sets of his first two matches and complaining of aches and pains, but improved to beat 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis in straights sets in the quarter-finals and outclassed Tomic in the semis.
Tomic, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, stayed on serve until the sixth game, when he worked Murray around with some of the unorthodox angle and drop shots that can unsettle even seasoned players.
However, Murray then went on a roll, winning five straight games to go ahead by a set and a break. The result seemed inevitable at that stage, with the No. 4 ranked Murray not showing any signs of rustiness or injuries.
The increase in tempo was not solely to impress his new coach.
The 23-year-old Dolgopolov needed treatment for a groin strain during the second set and had his upper right leg heavily strapped, but it did not blunt the powerful forehand he used to unravel Simon.
In the women’s final, the 28-year-old Hantuchova had an abbreviated run to the final when 13-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams withdrew from their scheduled quarter-final after injuring her left ankle and Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters retired in the second set of their semi-final with a hip strain.
Kanepi, from Estonia, had lost all three previous matches against Hantuchova, but is on a 13-3 run since the US Open, including wins in Brisbane against second-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany and third-seeded Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion.
With Hantuchova serving, the final game went to deuce seven times before Kanepi won on her fourth championship point.
The Auckland Classic singles final between China’s Zheng Jie and Italy’s Flavia Pennetta was put off until today because of persistent rain showers rained out yesterday’s program, the organizers said.
“In case of rain, the final will be held on an indoor court at the ASB Tennis Centre,” a statement on the tournament’s Web site said.