Mladenovic claims Taipei Open title

FIRST BLOOD::Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen put up a fight in the final yesterday, but could not stop the feisty Frenchwoman from winning her first WTA title

By Tony Phillips  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Nov 05, 2012 - Page 20

Kristina Mladenovic of France beat Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen 6-4, 6-3 to win the OEC Taipei WTA Ladies Open singles title at the Taipei Arena yesterday, sinking to her knees on the court in relief and joy after landing her first WTA title.

“When you win out there, you don’t know what your reaction will be, so much stress and its over,” Mladenovic said.

The defeat was Chang’s second in successive finals, following her loss to Britain’s Heather Watson in Osaka, Japan, last month.

Following an exchange of breaks at the start, Chang found herself serving to stay in the first set at 4-5 down. She saved a set point and a nail-biting seven deuces followed, with Chang surviving another set point before hitting a backhand into the net on the third to leave Mladenovic in control.

Serving well and hitting the ball cleanly, the No. 4 seed put Chang under increasing pressure until the 21-year-old from Taoyuan cracked, dropping her serve in the fourth game of the second set.

The momentum was with Mladenovic and Chang was forced to serve to stay in the match at 2-5 down. She fought desperately to stay in the contest, saving five match points before the crowd erupted as Chang took the game.

The excitement continued in the next game, Chang having a glimmer of hope when her opponent netted a backhand to give her a break point. She failed to take it, but the home fans were kept on the edge of their seats as Chang had two more chances to claim the game, but failed to win either.

It proved a false dawn, as Mladenovic wrapped things up on her sixth match point with a powerful second serve that Chang barely got her racket to.

“I had many match points, but Kai-chen played unbelievably well, she made so many winners on my match points,” Mladenovic said.

After the match the 19-year-old Frenchwoman said that if she had followed her coach’s advice she would not even have played in the tournament.

“He didn’t really agree with my choice of playing in this tournament because it was so far [to travel], but I explained to him that it’s such a great event and I really wanted to play,” Mladenovic said. “I like the people here, how they work hard to make such a good event.”

Chang has had an up-and-down year, but sees the US Open as a turning point, when her brother — who is also her coach — advised her to stop worrying so much about ranking points and concentrate on how she was performing on court.

“[My brother] said I had to change my attitude and focus on the right thing, so I started doing a little better,” Chang said.

“I started winning some matches, getting some confidence back, so I like the way my year has ended,” she added.

Despite Chang’s defeat, there was a Taiwanese winner at the Taipei Arena yesterday as Chan Hao-ching partnered Mladenovic to victory in the doubles final. The top seeds beat the unlucky Chang and Olga Govortsova of Belarus 5-7, 6-2, 10-8.